Roddick overpowers Stepanek to win third SAP Open
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Andy Roddick arrived at the SAP Open this week not knowing where his game was because he had played so sparingly this season.
He left San Jose with this third title at this event and confidence that he can get on a roll following a 6-4, 7-5 victory in the tournament final Sunday.
Roddick had played only four competitive matches since winning the Davis Cup late last season, losing in the third round of the Australian Open and winning his only match in this month's Davis Cup tie against Austria.
He was pushed to a third-set tiebreaker in the opening round here against lucky loser Chris Guccione before starting to find his groove. Roddick is stressing this stretch of the season and has accepted a wild-card entry to play in Memphis this upcoming week in order to get more work.
"It was important for me to come here and play well because I didn't have a good result in Australia and I hadn't really played much tennis this year so far," Roddick said. "This year might have been more important than other years."
The top-seeded Roddick never faced a break point in the final as Stepanek had no answer for his booming serve. Roddick closed out each set with an ace to win his 24th career title.
There were only two service breaks in the entire match. The fourth-seeded Stepanek made three errors in the opening game and lost his serve at love to open the match. Then at 5-all in the third set, Roddick came up with the two big groundstrokes he needed to close out the match.
He hit a forehand down the line off the first serve that handcuffed Stepanek as he approached the net to earn a break point. Then he went up 6-5 with a topspin forehand passing shot.
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Then he tried to pull off a Michael Jackson-style dance move in his celebration, kicking his right leg up in the air, twisting his body and throwing out his left arm. It was his answer to Stepanek's signature post-match dance, "The Worm," which proved to be very popular this week.
"Everybody was asking me about 'The Worm,' " Roddick said. "All I hear is the 'The Worm.' So I wanted to find something as cheesy if not cheesier to go with, which was tough. I figured one bad leg kick and maybe I'd be on par."
Roddick finished with 13 aces and lost only 13 points in his 11 service games. He was only pushed to deuce once, at 5-4 in the opening set. With so many points ending quickly, Stepanek had a hard time finding his timing.
"It's just the way Andy played," Stepanek said. "When I played the guys before, a lot of balls were played. With Andy, the games sometimes go too quickly. Maybe you don't touch the ball or touch it twice but the ball ends up in the fence. Today there was no rhythm for me. Usually I'm taking the rhythm of the players but today I didn't get the chance to get mine."
The 29-year-old Stepanek was looking for his third career title. He became a fan favorite this week with his engaging personality.
He even came out before the match wearing a Joe Thornton Sharks jersey that he was given as a gift by the locker room attendants as long as he would wear it on the court. Stepanek, a New York Rangers fan, said he wanted to thank the Sharks for giving up their home arena this week. But that was probably a bad omen considering the Sharks have one of the worst home records in the NHL.
"Throughout the week I need to show the emotions, show the way I feel, show the way I am," he said. "I think that tennis is missing that a little bit but I'm not doing that because the tennis is missing it. It's me. That's my personality. That's the way I am."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press