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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Andy Roddick's story takes sour turn

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Andy Roddick saw this coming some 20 hours before it happened.

After stunning Roger Federer in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open on Monday night, Roddick wasn't buying into all the gathering hysteria. He calmly cited some personal history, pointing out that when he had last beaten Federer in Miami, in 2008, he followed it up with a semifinal loss to Nikolay Davydenko.

Tuesday, with a half-full stadium chanting for Juan Monaco, it sounded and felt like Buenos Aires, Argentina -- a home game for Monaco. With that kind of support -- and the inevitable emotional letdown by Roddick -- Monaco swept to a forceful 7-5, 6-0 victory.

This ruined a number of feel-good, all-Florida storylines and placed Monaco in the quarterfinals against Roddick's good friend, Mardy Fish. Earlier, Fish said he was looking forward to the first relevant match between them in ages.

The stroke that served him so well against Federer did not travel well; Roddick hit only two aces and won 61 percent of his serves. He hit only eight winners and suffered 37 unforced errors. It was almost painful to watch the second set.

The hamstring injury that has plagued him much of the season, Roddick said afterward, has prevented him from doing the off-court work necessary to succeed.

"My lack of any sort of fitness regime on my leg is apparent," Roddick said. "I got to about 4-all -- and I'm out of shape. That was it."

When one last backhand volley sailed long, Roddick shook hands with Monaco and the chair umpire, and packed up his things. In less than 10 seconds, including a quick wave, he was gone.

With a busy summer schedule coming up, Roddick will take one day off and get back to work.

"My tennis has come around in the last two, three weeks," he said. "I feel like I can put in the week and get my legs back under me."

Here are four other things we learned Tuesday at the Sony Ericsson Open:

2. It's hard to find good service these days: But Mardy Fish outdid himself in his fourth-round, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3 victory over Nicolas Almagro. The No. 8-ranked American won 51 of his 53 first-serve points, a remarkable percentage of 96. He saved seven of eight break points.

"When I needed some free points, I got them," Fish said. "And you need them against someone like him. He played great. Sometimes my serve games throughout that match were almost -- they were going too easy for me."

After splitting his first eight matches in five events -- never winning two in a row -- Fish has now strung together three consecutive victories here.

3. Muted Maria changes the karma: Everything about Maria Sharapova is big -- her game, her bank account, her ambition, the decibel levels when she invariably shrieks. The one thing you can count on: she rarely backs down from going for it, which sometimes works against her.

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova's much-maligned serve was spot on versus Li Na.

Tuesday, aware she had lost four consecutive matches -- and eight consecutive sets -- to China's Li Na, Sharapova toned it down drastically. Her winners registered in the single digits and (amazingly) she had zero double faults. The score was 6-3, 6-0 and it was over in a scant 68 minutes.

"I mean, my game is obviously the way it is by being aggressive and going for my shots," Sharapova said, "but also making sure that if it takes three or four or five, six balls for the opponent to make a mistake, then that's what it takes. It's having that consistency and also the will to be out there for as long as it takes."

4. Andy Murray is a junk-baller: The opening game of Murray's fourth-round match with Gilles Simon of France went 18 minutes. The No. 4 seed finally held serve and settled down with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the No. 13 seed.

"I mean, just with our game styles, often when I play against him it's often a lot of long rallies," Murray explained later. "He's one of those guys that almost feels sometimes the better you play against him, the better he plays.

"Sometimes you need to put in a bit of junk really to make him make mistakes and change the pattern of the points."

5. Novak Djokovic is still hungry: After running down Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals, the 25-year-old Serb was asked how he stays motivated after such a marvelous 2011 season.

"Motivation is always present," he said. "As long as it's there, I'll be playing this sport with a lot of passion. I'll be committed to it 100 percent. I'm waking up every morning knowing that I love this sport, and it's something that gives me a lot of energy and drives me to practice hard and always seek to perfect my game as much as I can."

Roger Federer is already 30 and has already talked about possibly playing another three or four years. Djokovic, too, seems to be in it for the long haul.

"I still feel that I have many years in front of me," he said, "as long as my health serves me and as long as I'm mentally there, focused, determined, motivated to prove to myself and the others that I can be one of the top players."