Coria eager to face Roddick

Updated: April 4, 2004, 1:55 PM ET
By Cynthia Faulkner | ESPN.com

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- You'd think Guillermo Coria would rather play Vince Spadea than Andy Roddick in the Nasdaq-100 Open final, since Roddick owns a 2-0 record against the Argentine. Wrong.

"I would like to have revenge against Roddick," Argentina's Coria said after his 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1 victory against Chile's Fernando Gonazalez on Friday afternoon.

"Well, he has that chance now," Roddick replied after he ended Spadea's hot streak in 65 minutes with a 6-1, 6-3 victory in Friday's night match.

Roddick and Coria last met at the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston on hard court. Coria was up 3-1 in third set. Roddick won 6-3.

"I stepped up in the last little bit of the third set," Roddick remembers.

It's that loss that Coria said he's "still pretty hot about."

Roddick made it through to Key Biscayne's semifinals with some shaky play, but none of that showed against Spadea. Roddick's 20 winners were almost double that of his 11 unforced errors.

Roddick made 68 percent of his first serves, winning the point 79 percent of the time. His second serve wasn't a liability as he actually won the point 85 percent of the time.

"You survive long enough and then you start playing well," Roddick said afterward.

"It was a great serving match for him," Spadea said. "I wasn't at my best, and even if I was, I might have lost because he was really at his best."

Roddick's backhand and net play have never been his best options. He usually prefers to use his strong forehand from the baseline. But he's been working on improving both. More than once this week, he won a backhand rally.

"He was stepping up and hitting his backhand cross-court deeper and with more force, and his down-the-line backhand," Spadea said.

Roddick's net play improved, too, as he won 14 of 19 points.

"It would have been tough not to feel more comfortable at the net than I did yesterday [against Carlos Moya]," Roddick said, smiling.

It might not feel so comfortable against Coria, though. Coria runs down balls other players aren't quick enough to return.

"He's one of the fastest guys on tour," Roddick said. "He doesn't give an inch. He's got a great feel for the court. He gets out of so many situations with his hands and playing the right shot at the right time."

Coria, at 5-foot-9 and 145 pounds, was often was told growing up in Argentina that he was too small to be a professional tennis player.

"They told me that many times," Coria said. "But if you look, [Lleyton] Hewitt was twice year-end No. 1."

Coria simply ignored the critics.

"I cannot change my physical attributes," Coria said. "I cannot stay home just because I'm small. I just worked hard."

His hard work paid off as he finished last year as the No. 5 player in the world with a 60-16 record. He reached the semifinals of the French Open and the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. He won five of his seven total titles just last year -- most of them on clay -- taking his first Tennis Masters Series title in Hamburg. He also was runner-up in Monte Carlo. This will be his first Tennis Masters Series final on hard court, where he's eager to prove he can win.

"We have been working more on attacking, getting to the net, keeping points shorter," Coria said. "That's the difference between playing on clay and playing on hard."

"The guy can play ball regardless of what surface," Roddick said. "Obviously, he feels most comfortable on clay, but, you know, a lot of times it's just getting out of the gates on something. I'm always uneasy my first couple matches on clay."

After playing three sets all week, the final will be best of five. Coria said that he prefers to play five sets if he's facing Roddick.

"It gives you more chances to come back in the match when you play five sets," Coria said.

"You can't say enough about someone who's a figher," Roddick said. "He's been down-and-out in the tournament more than I have, which is saying something."

"He's going to have to win every point," Coria said. "I'm going to fight very hard every point. Roddick is going to have to earn it."

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor at ESPN.com.

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