Legg Mason Rocks the Creek
August 2, 2010 -- Andy Roddick feels comfortable in Washington DC. He should, too. He's won the Legg Mason Tennis Classic three times and is making his ninth appearance here at this ATP World Tour 500 level tournament.
"I have good memories from here," Roddick said, during an impromptu gathering of the press after his practice session this afternoon. "I started to do well in my career here in DC."
DC is the start of Roddick's preparation for the U. S. Open. After his disappointing performance at the inaugural Atlanta Tennis Championships a couple weeks ago he went home to Austin, Texas, and practiced.
"I took my lumps in Atlanta," Roddick admitted, as he adjusted his Lacoste cap. "But, I want to do well here. I've been playing well over the last eight or nine days. So that's good."
Roddick also has more good news. He'll play mixed doubles with Serena Williams at the London 2012 Olympic Games. As soon as the news flashed across the world that mixed doubles was on the menu, Andy said he used all means of communication to reach Williams.
"I guess I made a pest of myself. But I've always said that my best asset in doubles is picking a good partner."
James Blake, a good friend of Roddick's, had hopes for a good tournament here in Rock Creek Park. He was entered as a wildcard, having slipped to #105 in the ATP World Tour Rankings and having won the title in 2002. Blake hasn't been outside the top one hundred since 2005. It's not a comfortable place for a player as proud as James Blake -- a former top ten man and Davis Cup team winner.
But tonight didn't go well for an aging James Blake. He lost to Ryan Sweeting, an up-and-coming American, 36 63 64.
"I played tentative on break points," Blake said, his eyes cast downward. "I didn't play the big points well."
It's the way his whole year has gone. He's a step behind. His timing is off a bit. His confidence is sub-par.
At the Australian Open Blake lost in the second round to Juan Martin del Potro, 10-8 in the fifth. The two men smacked the ball all over the court, two heavies battling for every point. You have to think that loss took its toll on the American.
Then he didn't make it past a third round this spring in any tournament. On top of that he skipped the entire clay-court season with a knee problem.
He entered Atlanta and lost to American buddy Taylor Dent, again, in the first round but revived himself at the Farmer's Classic last week in Los Angeles where he made it to the quarterfinals
"Hopefully, I'll be able to train well and no more body parts will break down," Blake added. "I have to find a way to improve at this age. If I'm not winning, I'm frustrated."
Player on the fringe to watch
Grega Zemlja is ranked 128. But don't let that fool you because this talented Slovenian, making his first-ever appearance at an ATP Tour 500 level event, is a player to keep your eyes on.
After defeating Donald Young yesterday in the last round of qualification, Zemlja knew he'd done well. He proved himself again today in his first round defeat of NCAA champion Benjamin Becker 62 63.
"I had a good feeling going in today," Zemlja said, looking pleased with himself in a modest way. "I played better from moment to moment, something I need to work on."
Zemlja turned pro in 2004 and prefers hard court tennis or a fast clay court. He's here at the Legg Mason alone. No coach. No entourage.
He had his best win of his career this spring at Roland Garros when he defeated the #25 seed Juan Monaco in four sets.
On the technical side, Zemjla's groundstrokes are solid and smooth with very little wasted motion and, therefore, energy. He holds his head still as he hits through the ball, resembling his two favorite players Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer. Zemlja plays with a variety of spin and pace, and serves and volleys proficiently. He hits his groundies deep into his opponent's court and he does it consistently. Most important, he elevates his game at precise moments.
To prove how effectively he can step up his game, take a look at two eye-popping statistics from Zemlja: Break Points Saved -- 67%; Break Points Converted -- 47%. Compare them to the man who has the best percentages in those categories -- Rafael Nadal with 71% and 48% respectively -- and you have to be impressed.
Next up for Zemlja is Andy Roddick.