KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Andy Roddick battled a queasy stomach in the final of the Nasdaq-100 Open, and he was the healthiest player on the court.
The curse of Key Biscayne struck again Sunday, and it hit Guillermo Coria hardest. He retired because of back spasms after losing the first three points of the fourth set trailing 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-1.Although Guillermo Coria received treatment on his lower back, it was not enough.
It's the fourth time in 15 years that the men's final has been affected by an ailing player. Roddick acknowledged he could have done worse than a little nausea.
"I'll take sick to my stomach over injured any day," Roddick said. "I was definitely working with the lesser of two evils."
Coria said he hurt his back in the first set. Trailing 6-5, he received treatment from a trainer during a changeover, then played a flawless tiebreaker to pull out the set.
But Coria walked to the chair frowning and shaking his head and threw his racket at his bag. As Roddick took control in the second and third sets, Coria occasionally clutched his back between points, and his movement and serve were clearly affected.
"Guillermo slowed by an injury is still faster than about 95 percent of the guys on tour," Roddick said. "But it's tough playing with an injury."
After hitting a forehand into the net in the first game of the final set, Coria waved his hands in frustration and walked to the net to concede.
"The pain was excruciating, and I was having trouble serving," said Coria, who lost serve five times. "I knew after I won the first set I was not going to be able to finish."
Roddick felt less than terrific himself. He said he woke up sick to his stomach, and the queasiness lingered during the match.
"I was battling," he said. "I was trying to maybe bluff my way through, because I knew he was hurt, too."
Maybe there's something in the water that surrounds the island, given Key Biscayne's tradition of tainted finals.
-- In 1989, Thomas Muster was unable to play because he hurt his knee when hit by a car hours after winning his semifinal match.
-- In 1994, Pete Sampras nearly defaulted because of a stomach ailment, but in a sporting gesture, Andre Agassi declined the walkover victory to give his rival an hour to recover. Sampras then won the match.
-- In 1996, Goran Ivanisevic woke up with a stiff neck the morning of the final and quit in the fourth game.
Roddick knows the history well, because he grew up in nearby Boca Raton and watched matches from the upper deck as a youngster. That made his first title in the event especially sweet, Coria's injury notwithstanding.
"It's not the picture-perfect ending," Roddick said. "It's not the way you want to win a tournament. But at the same, I'm here at the end of the day. That was my goal coming into the tournament."
Before Coria's injury, the match had the trappings of an exciting final, with perfect weather, a capacity crowd of 13,118 and a Davis Cup atmosphere. Some fans waved Argentine flags, while others chanted "U-S-A."
"I feel very disappointed for the crowd," Coria said. "I felt like I was playing in Argentina."
Roddick hit 11 aces, the fastest of which reached 143 mph. He lost only six of 45 points on his first serve, and played steadily from the baseline, even fooling Coria twice with drop shots.
"Midway through the second set, I stepped up in all areas of my game," Roddick said. "I wasn't going to beat him just rallying. I started going for my shots more."
Roddick reached a milestone by improving his career record to 200-67 and leads the ATP Tour in victories this year with a record of 26-5. He has won the past eight finals he has played and will climb in Monday's rankings from third to second behind No. 1 Roger Federer.
He'll now begin preparations for the U.S. Davis Cup match Friday through Sunday against Sweden in Delray Beach. Coria said he expects to be fine in two or three days and plans to play for Argentina's team beginning Friday at Belarus.
The 21-year-old Roddick earned $533,350 and became the sixth American to win the men's championship. Sampras was also 21 when he won the first of his three Key Biscayne titles. Agassi won the first of his six titles in the event at 19.
Coria settled for $266,675, and fans were left to wonder: Had he stayed healthy, how would the match have gone?
"Longer," Roddick said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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