Thanks to coach Connors, Roddick is on a roll

So who's this guy showing brains and brawn? It's the new Andy Roddick, and he's rockin' and rollin' Down Under writes Luke Jensen.

Updated: January 19, 2007, 4:17 PM ET

RODDICK STOPS SAFIN

Andy Roddick and Marat Safin are both true heavyweights of the game. Both are 6-4 and weigh in at 195 lbs. The essential difference in their games though, is their power source. Roddick has a huge serve, a weapon he's had since the day he made his debut. Safin's weapons are his big groundstrokes.

The difference Friday, however, was not power, it was strategy. Particularly from Roddick. When he won the U.S. Open in 2003, the year he finished No. 1 in the world, his stifling serve and forehand were too much for his opponents to handle. But against Safin, Roddick added some new tactics, and the intangibles he displayed proved to be the difference in this match.

First, he took advantage of short balls. He attacked them instead of letting them come to him. Furthermore, he took balls early from the baseline, which consequently means less reaction time for your opponents. This game plan was essential in taking out the Russian monster. Because Safin was coming off consecutive five-set matches, his legs were not fresh to begin with. It was clearly noticeable that he did not have the bounce in his step or the sting in his shots toward the end of the match, and Roddick took advantage of that.

If Roddick had played one-dimensional tennis, if he had just gone out and banged the ball around, it's unknown what the outcome would have been. The maturation of Andy Roddick is as impressive as his game.

Roddick's success is thanks in large part to his coach, Jimmy Connors, who has been with him for less than a year. Connors has emphasized the X's and O's. It's clear that attacking the net and moving forward are integral ingredients Connors wants his student to improve upon. Against Safin, Roddick came to net 52 times! That kind of tactic was essential in neutralizing Safin's powerful ground game.

Is Roddick's plan perfect? No, he's still learning and improving his volleys. But unquestionably, his game is heading in the right direction. Roddick's big serve is still there. His huge forehand is and always will be a weapon, but what we are seeing now is the complete player.

When we look back at Andy Roddick's career, this match could be a turning point. He had to knock off a guy who won the championship down here two years ago and a guy who is also a former U.S. Open winner. There's no reason to think Roddick can't make a championship run here in Melbourne.


PHOTO OF THE DAY
Fan altercation
Mark Dadswell/Getty Images
Elena Dementieva of Russia acknowledges the crowd after winning her third-round match against Maria Elena Camerin.
ADVANTAGE LUKE JENSEN
DAY 5 PREVIEW
CUDDLY CHAMPION
Roger Federer used his center-court appearance at the Australian Open on Friday to promote a charity that uses a teddy bear version of himself to raise money for disadvantaged children.

During an on-court interview after defeating Mikhail Youzhny to advance to the fourth round, the defending champion accepted a giant stuffed "Federbear" carrying a racket and wearing a headband and T-shirt with "Federer 1" on the back.

"I design bears," Federer joked with commentator Jim Courier. Proceeds from the sale online of smaller versions of the bear go to a charity jointly run by the ATP Tour and UNICEF, the U.N. children's fund, to pay for education, health and welfare of children.

Federer, the world's top player, is a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and opened his own foundation in 2003 to help disadvantaged children, especially those in South Africa, where his mother, Lynette, was raised.

-- Associated Press

STAT OF THE DAY
13 -- The last wild card to reach the fourth round was Mats Wilander 13 years ago. Australian Wayne Arthurs failed to do so Friday in his final appearance Down Under.