Tennis

Roddick must regroup for Wimbledon

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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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LONDON

On his second match point Dudi Sela flung himself to his left, connected with a perfectly placed backhand volley before he hit the grass, rolled over and was up in a nanosecond, arms upraised.

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The 25-year-old from Israel had just beaten Andy Roddick 6-4, 7-6 at the AEGON Championships — a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that Roddick won this Queen’s Club title four times between 2003 and 2007.

The match was played in windy conditions under heavy cloud cover on another damp afternoon in London, but Roddick was offering no excuses.

“He played great. Credit to him,” Roddick said. “He never dug himself in a hole on any service games; never made any sloppy errors. I think I could have done some things differently, but I thought he played a pretty perfect match.”

What Roddick could have done was not miss the forehand volley on set point at 6-5 in the second set tiebreak. He had another one, too, but Sela took care of that with a forehand pass and then, after making a mess of a backhand on his first match point, closed it 10-8 with that spectacular volley.

The Israeli had beaten Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez a few years ago in a memorable Davis Cup encounter but otherwise this has to rank as the best win of Sela’s career. He did well at Wimbledon last year, reaching the fourth round and rose to No. 29 in the world as a result. But his ranking had slipped to No. 63 prior to this event.

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Two good wins in the first two rounds against Australia’s Chris Guccione and Gilles Muller of Luxembourg put him in the right frame of mind to take on last year’s Wimbledon finalist, and he immediately started to play some immaculate grass-court tennis.

“Before last year, I didn’t like the grass,” he said. “Now I’m loving it.”

Roddick has now got to try and love the practice court. But it won’t be easy.

“I’m not super concerned about the way I’m hitting the ball,” Roddick said. “I’m not stressed out about any one part of my game too much. But you know, if I’m being frank with you guys, I had a lot of time practicing before the French (after pulling out of Madrid with a virus), played some matches and had a lot of time practicing here. Now I have a lot of time practicing before Wimbledon. It’s basically getting over my own impatience as opposed to worrying about my game. If this match had happened in two days and the guy had played really, really well and I felt like I had not played badly, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of problems. But, you know, I’m just going to have to show off my awesome ability to be a patient person.”

Alongside the flip remarks and sardonic humor, Roddick has always had an ability to laugh at himself and he will need to rely on that side of his personality as he ploughs through the next 10 days, waiting to get another crack at that Wimbledon title that came so tantalizingly close to being his last year.

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