- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2007

For Andy Roddick, this week’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic may serve to settle his stomach.

The world’s fifth-ranked player enters the tournament at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in the District as the top seed and favorite but is coming off of losses at Wimbledon and Indianapolis that left him feeling a bit queasy.

“It’s nice to go back to places you have good memories of,” Roddick said after his first practice session yesterday. “Fortunately, on this hard-court circuit I’ve won all of the events once and some of them twice [including the Legg Mason]. It’s nice to be able to draw on these memories. There’s no question I feel comfortable here.”

That’s more than he could say in his past two tournaments. He was up two sets against Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the Wimbledon quarterfinals before falling apart — “I’d love to try to make you understand what it feels like in the pit of your stomach right now, but I don’t know if I can do that,” he said at the time.

Then last week, poised to land his third victory at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships, flu-like symptoms left Roddick lethargic in a semifinal loss to journeyman Canadian Frank Danevic.

But Roddick, the champion here in 2001 and 2005, said he is feeling better as he goes for his first win of the season on hard-courts, his preferred surface. The Legg Mason is the third tournament in the U.S. Open series, which serves as the lead up to the year’s final Grand Slam, the U.S. Open in New York.

He opens tonight against Czech qualifier Tomas Zib.

A win here would be good not only for Roddick but also for U.S. men’s tennis, which has experienced a dearth of good results all year. Roddick’s win at Queen’s Club and James Blake’s win at Sydney are the only wins by American players on the ATP Tour in 2007. No American managed to get past the first round of this year’s French Open, and Roddick was the only American even to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Blake looked poised to win the Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles two weeks ago but was dropped in the final by journeyman Czech Radek Stepanek.

But Roddick dismissed the notion U.S. men’s tennis is in a slump, pointing instead to the dominance of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have won the last seven Grand Slams and 10 of the last 11. Roddick’s last — and only — Grand Slam victory came at the U.S. Open four years ago.

“If that’s the case and if that’s the way you want to approach it, then every other country in the world in men’s tennis is in crisis except for Spain and Switzerland,” he said, referring to the home countries of Nadal and Federer. “If you look at it, we’ve had as many top 10 players and as many players in the [Tennis] Masters Cup as any other country. We’re out here trying to win. … I don’t know if Grand Slams have been that easy to come by.”

In the last year Roddick has appeared more confident, perhaps as a result of his coach, tennis legend Jimmy Connors. Together, it remains their mission to find a way to top Federer in a Grand Slam final. But perhaps more vexing than his inability to beat the world’s top player is Roddick’s penchant for inexplicable results, including first-round exits from the U.S. Open in 2005 and the French Open in each of the last two years. Armed with a record-breaking serve and an apparent freight load of confidence, he has repeatedly entered tournaments with momentum only to falter against lower-ranked opponents (a win at Queen’s Club in England followed by the Wimbledon loss is the latest example).

Roddick admitted to thinking about Wimbledon during a six-week layoff before heading to Indianapolis.

“That’s normal if you care about something,” he said, but he contended the sting no longer lingered.

His loss last week, meanwhile, stopped hurting the second he arrived in the District.

“To be honest, I don’t put a lot of stock in that last loss at Indy,” he said. “There were a lot of reasons for that loss that were not relevant to [tonight].”

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