Commentary

Roddick beatdown amplifies U.S. woes

Updated: January 23, 2011, 11:59 AM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- The way the Australian Open has gone for Americans, you had a feeling this would happen.

Andy Roddick was felled in the fourth round by an inspired Stanislas Wawrinka on Sunday night, leaving no U.S. players in the quarterfinals here for the first time since the draw expanded to 128 in 1987.

Ugh.

Roddick was crushed 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 by Wawrinka, who looked a little like fellow Swiss Roger Federer in his heyday. Wawrinka completely dictated proceedings, backing up his serve and cruising from the end of the first set onward. His figures were staggering -- 67 winners and 19 unforced errors.

Yet another player who came up with huge numbers against the Texan.

"He's been thoroughly dominated tonight," said ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe, Roddick's former Davis Cup captain.

Roddick, at least for the time being, won't be pondering the woe of American tennis. Rather, he'll be looking within. Since losing a nail-biter to Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon final, Roddick, who trained particularly hard in the offseason to gear up for 2011's opening major and offset the aftereffects of mono, has reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal.

"I'm glad I finished healthy," said Roddick, who had also been troubled by a leg injury last year. "First tournament I've done that for a long time. But there's certainly some work to be done. I got to figure out in kind of slower conditions how I can impose myself on some of these guys."

With James Blake, another of the older guard, taking a break from the game, the immediate future for the U.S. men isn't rosy.

Roddick's third-round match against Robin Haase suggested he wasn't as sharp as he needed to be. The lanky Dutchman led by a set and extended the Texan to a second-set tiebreaker. When Roddick prevailed in that second set, Haase dwelled on an ankle injury and meekly exited.

There was no letting up from Wawrinka, who's starting to put it all together under the tutelage of Peter Lundgren, the former coach of Federer and Marat Safin.

The No. 19 seed took the initiative from the baseline, which was fully expected. The question was always whether he could sustain his level, and that he did.

Roddick had no answers, although to his credit he tried to mix it up more than usual. He ventured to the net 43 times, winning 65 percent of those points. And Roddick saved a flurry of break points in the first by taking it to Wawrinka. Ultimately, Wawrinka broke through on his ninth attempt.

The Roddick, however, who beat Rafael Nadal in Miami in 2010 and Indian Wells in 2009 -- on a similarly slow hard court -- rarely showed up. There, he took it to Nadal, stepping in on the baseline. It's the kind of approach that might lose Roddick a few matches against lower-ranked opponents but win him more versus the elite.

Such is the dilemma.

Roddick really only threatened at 1-3 in the third. Wawrinka escaped danger down 15-40 on serve, taking it to Roddick once more.

On the final changeover, Roddick could only shake his head.

"I was frustrated," Roddick said.

Later, near the locker room, he sat on the floor, legs extended, in silence.

McEnroe said Roddick's forehand, once one of the biggest shots in the men's game, lacked punch.

"Every time Roddick hits a forehand, he's in trouble on the next shot," McEnroe said in commentary. "He's getting no penetration. The forehand just sits there."

Lundgren concurred.

"I also thought there wasn't much coming out of his racket apart from the serve," Lundgren said. "The serve was good when it was in, like it is always."

Lundgren's plan is to turn Wawrinka into a "beast" on court. Wawrinka pumped his fist and shouted "allez" more than once, showcasing his newfound grit. Wawrinka gets a huge test in the next round against Federer.

Roddick needs to find the beast within, too.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.