juncture

RODDICK OVERCOMES LLODRA IN TESTING ENCOUNTER

By Ritesh Gupta

Witnessing a contrasting duel where one thrives on pace while the other seldom offers the same is something one hardly comes across in the men’s tennis today. Deft touches, exchanges at the net, pulsating half-volleys…all this is a treat to watch especially on the hallowed courts at Wimbledon.

Such contrasting style of play came to the fore as France’s Michael Llodra tested Andy Roddick in the second round at Wimbledon today.

Though Llodra lost 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 6-7 (2-7), the left-hander won many hearts with his skillful play, with class written all over it. It was surely an exquisite performance from Llodra but he couldn’t carry the same form once he lost his serve to loose the second set.

It’s a rare sight to see somebody of Roddick’s calibre being hurried into strokes. Llodra, who won the Eastbourne tournament prior to this championship, posed a serious threat after bagging the first set. Be it for pushing Roddick wide off the court or his display at the net, Llodra produced some immaculate stuff during the initial stages.

To his credit, Roddick, though at the receiving end, hung on. After Llodra fired two aces to finish the first set, he earned two break points in the very first game of the second set. Llodra not only hustled Roddick with chip and charge but he also showed his class with subtle variations in pace to unsettle Roddick. This was perhaps the best chance but Llodra couldn’t break the serve.

The American, who has lost in final thrice here, gradually got into his groove and broke the shackles in the tenth game. An insipid service game from Llodra changed the course of the match. Llodra, who held his service with aplomb till then, came up with uncharacteristic missed drop volley and even Roddick, too, forced an error at a crucial stage with a wonderful low service return, which Llodra failed to retrieve at the net. Roddick made it one set apiece at this juncture.

Thereafter, Roddick sustained the tempo and took control despite facing breakpoints in a couple of games in the third set. He wrapped up the match by pressurising Llodra in the fourth set tie-break, reeling off five points in a row.

Roddick, who came so close to lifting this championship against Roger Federer last year, is surely a contender this year, too. For him, this victory augurs well as Llodra is one of the tougher players to play on grass.

In the run-up to the Wimbledon, Llodra had won eight matches in two tournaments. He had his chances against Roddick but he wilted under the pressure when it mattered the most.