Roddick again has no answers for Federer

Roger Federer neutralized Andy Roddick's serve. Then he won 10 straight games and left the American in search of answers in the semifinals.

Updated: January 28, 2007, 11:37 AM ET
By Luke Jensen | ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer again put on a clinic and quieted any doubters who thought the gap was closing between him and the rest of the field. Federer isn't the No. 1 player in the world because he's lucky. We all knew coming into this semifinal match that Andy Roddick had to play perfectly. He had to serve big, return well and move fluidly. And even if he did, that wouldn't have guaranteed him a win anyway.

Federer was remarkably consistent returning Roddick's serve in this match. Consequently that neutralized Roddick's main weapon, his serve. The American then had to go to Plans B, C and D. Against Federer, Plan A rarely works, so it was apparent Roddick was in for a long day. It was magnificent to watch this maestro counter Roddick's every move.

Conversely, it was difficult to witness Andy Roddick, who has put in so much time, effort and money just to get to this stage, be completely overmatched. It only proves just how far Federer is ahead of everyone else. Roddick was overwhelmed, no question about it, but there are a couple positives that came out of this match, despite the lopsided result. Roddick never threw in the towel, and that's hard to do, especially when you're feeling helpless and have virtually no answers. It looked ugly out there, but we learned a lot about Roddick's character. He knew he wasn't going to win, but even until the bitter end, he played as if he was in the fifth and final set. There are a lot of players out there who wouldn't be able to say the same thing.

Andy Roddick
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesAndy Roddick won just six games vs. Federer -- the fewest of his career in a match at any Grand Slam event.

The pressure on Roddick to perform well in this semifinal encounter was significant. He hired Jimmy Connors as his coach to help him find new tactics and strategies so he could be more competitive with the Swiss. At the Masters Cup in November, he held multiple match points before succumbing to Federer. Then, just two weeks ago, he beat him in an exhibition match, clearly a confidence booster heading into their match in Australia.

Like he has on so many occasions, Federer changed gears. And, it seemed like he did so in a split second. The first set was tight. In the second, though, Roddick was bageled for just the third time in 476 career matches. The world No. 1 was smooth out there and made it look effortless.

It was disheartening for Roddick, who knew he brought out everything in his arsenal, and yet was unable to win a game in that set. Roddick had high hopes. There was a buzz in the media room that this could be the match where Roddick would snap his long losing streak versus Federer. Once again, though, Fed proved us all wrong. He consistently was a step ahead of Roddick -- figuratively and literally.

Despite a disappointing day, Roddick takes away a lot of positives from this year's Aussie Open run. The one improvement I'd like to see is quicker footwork. Roddick is a tall guy who has trouble when he's on the defensive. Added speed would allow him to get back into points. I expect Roddick to immediately go back to the drawing board and think of other ways he can go about throwing Federer off-balance the next time they meet.

Roddick improved round by round until meeting his nemesis, Federer. He came to the season's first slam with not just a more mature game, but a will to get even better. His backhand was stellar throughout the two weeks, and his instinct to come to the net is becoming second nature. Although he was unable to catch Federer off guard, he remained calm and composed. There's no reason to think this momentum won't carry over as the year progresses. It's safe to assume Roddick is going to be a force this season.

Former ATP Tour pro Luke Jensen is providing ESPN.com with analysis during the Australian Open. Jensen was a two-time All-American at USC, and is the head tennis coach at Syracuse. He captured the 1993 French Open doubles crown with his brother Murphy.