Roddick takes year's second title

Updated: April 4, 2004, 8:04 PM ET
By Cynthia Faulkner | ESPN.com

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Before Sunday's Nasdaq-100 Open final, it was hard to tell who wanted the victory more: Andy Roddick or Guillermo Coria. With only one title under his belt this year, Roddick wanted to break out here. Coria, most at home on clay, hoped to prove he could win major titles on hard court.

It didn't turn out how either man expected. Coria, wincing with pain in his low back, found it became impossible to play on, retiring and allowing Roddick to win 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-1 in two hours and two minutes.

Coria, waiting for the trophy ceremony, sat with his face buried in a towel, his hopes ripped away.

"To get injured in a final in a big tournament like this, which it was a dream for me to get to the final, it was very upsetting," Coria said through a translator.

Serving at 4-5 in the first set, Coria grabbed his back, although he said the injury might have happened earlier as he tried to return a high, heavy ball from Roddick. Although he went ahead and won that first set, Coria said he knew he could not continue with the injury. Coria relies heavily on his speed, which a back injury negates.

"At the beginning, it was just the serve," Coria said. "Then, as I progressed, it started hurting on every side -- sitting down, standing up. I knew it was very difficult to play Roddick feeling this way."

"Even when Guillermo is hurt, he's faster than 95 percent of the guys on tour," Roddick said.

The match started with a vocal capacity crowd. Americans cheered on Roddick, but Coria had a strong Argentine contingent waving flags and chanting. Coria said he felt like he'd been playing at home all week, while Roddick lives for a lively crowd.

"I thought it was fantastic," Roddick said. "I mean, the chants. They weren't for me, but I thought it was awesome."

Roddick, who later said he had a dicey stomach, looked flat at first. Coria said he noticed something in the locker room and thought Roddick might be a little nervous.

"Then once we got on court, Andy was playing very quick," Coria said. "That made me play even more consistent and missing fewer shots.

Before the tiebreak, in the changeover at 5-6, Roddick said he could see Coria struggling to sit down. A trainer was called out and after treatment, Coria continued.

"I, you know, was 85 percent sure that if I won the first tiebreaker, he was maybe gonna check out," Roddick said. "That puts a lot of emphasis on each point, even more so than normal."

When Coria won the tiebreak, Roddick, who called Coria a "human backboard," knew things were going to be tough. In the second set, he raised his level.

"I was like, 'OK, either we're going to commit to being aggressive or we're gonna commit to a grind session,' " Roddick said. "At that point, aggressive sounded a lot more fun than grinding out every point."

Coria said he knew that although he'd won that first set, he probably should have quit then.

"But nobody wants to retire in a final with all the people that paid the money to come see me play," Coria said.

"I think it was smart of him to play on," Roddick said. "All it takes is maybe a break, then I could get rattled a little bit and who knows &

"But, you know, I definitely knew that (the match) being three-out-of-five sets, that it was to my advantage."

Roddick elevated his game in the second set. Besides winning free points off his serve, Roddick started dictating the point off Coria's as well, sending the injured man from side-to-side on the court.

"I was trying to kind of get him into submission, but, you know, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going for the knock-out punch there," Roddick said. "It takes away some of the joy of winning a tournament when you know your opponent is hurt. So it was kind of, you know, a Catch-22."

Before the fourth set began, Coria received further treatment on the court. He came out to serve the first game but after failing to even come close to winning one point, at 0-40, he retired from the match.

"I felt burned out and very sad after all that I had to go through this week, the tough matches that I had to play, to in one point feel the pain that I felt, it was extremely hard for me, very disappointing," Coria said, still wincing and needing to push off the desk to stand after his press conference.

It was Roddick's third Tennis Masters Series title on hard court, but both men said it shouldn't be long before Coria earns his first hard-court Tennis Masters Series title.

"I'm very close, I believe," said Coria, who'll be No. 7 in the ATP champions race after this week and stay No. 4 in the entry rankings. "I'm going to continue to work hard to hopefully win a big one on (the) hard (court) soon."

"He won the first set even while he was hurt," Roddick said. "I definitely don't think that far."

With his second title this year, Roddick leaves the tournament with his 200th match victory and a 26-5 record, which leads the ATP Tour. He'll rise to No. 2 in both the champions race and entry rankings, behind Federer.

More important, it also gives him confidence after some shaky play recently.

"I needed a big result to kind of put my stamp on this year, so far," Roddick said. "And so, you know, this tournament is kind of exactly what I was looking for."

Not to mention the added benefit of making coach Brad Gilbert, who went skydiving after Roddick's win at the Tennis Masters Series in Montreal last year, pay for the win.

"Brad's got something coming to him," Roddick said, smiling gleefully while tapping the table in eagerness. "I will let you know when he's done with it."

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor at ESPN.com.

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