Thursday, August 5, 2004

Roddick's got Kiefer's number

By Neil Schmidt
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - Nicolas Kiefer should be on the run now.

Everywhere he goes, Andy Roddick is there. Indianapolis. Toronto. Cincinnati.

Three matches, three losses, in the span of 11 days. Wednesday's count was 6-4, 6-4 in the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters second round.

Never mind Kiefer is 13-1 against the rest of the world over the past month. Roddick is stalking him. Kiefer probably should look over his shoulder when he next unpacks his rackets.

And yet ...

"I want to play him again," Kiefer said. "I know (if) I get my chances, I can beat him. ... Maybe I get my chance at the Olympics or the (U.S.) Open."

The 27-year-old German officially qualifies as a glutton for punishment. Bless him for not being gun-shy, but he's 0-4 in his career against Roddick and hasn't yet taken a set off him.

"It's funny; I played him once in my whole career, and then three times in 10 days or so," Roddick said.

Roddick, the tournament's second seed, knows what Kiefer's feeling. In his last 25 matches, Roddick is 23-0 against everyone not named Roger Federer.

Wednesday, Roddick needed a little variety to spice up the affair. He let Kiefer have five break points - Kiefer totaled only three over their two recent matches - but then yanked away the bait. He has held all 30 of his service games over these three meetings.

Meanwhile, Roddick went 2-for-2 on break points.

"For the most part, he played better than I did today," Roddick said. "But that's the match right there, in that (break points) stat."

Roddick was sloppy, committing 21 unforced errors to go with 24 winners. He had trouble getting points on Kiefer's serve.

The match turned on the best point of the tournament.

At 3-3 in the first set and serving at 30-15, Kiefer lured Roddick to the net and then sent a perfect lob to the baseline. In full sprint, Roddick caught up with it and - still facing the stands - flicked a forehand blindly back the other way.

Incredibly, it whistled up the line past an incredulous Kiefer for a winner. Roddick held out his hands to show he had no idea how he made the shot.

"I just started laughing, because you don't expect to hit that shot," Roddick said. "That's probably the best shot I've ever hit."

Kiefer dismissed the magic, saying, "I can also do it if I close my eyes and hit. If he can do it 10 out of 10 (times), I take my hat off to him. I don't think he would do it."

Yet it seemed a critical play, as Roddick won the next two points for the only break of the set.

Roddick has won all 26 service games in his two matches here this week. His most dramatic service game came when he dug a love-40 hole early in the first set Wednesday and then won the next five points.

Even opponents have talked of his ability to produce big serves to bail himself out.

"I guess it's happening more and more," Roddick said. "I'm hitting good serves on break points right now."


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