Roddick Turns on the Power

Times Staff Writer

Is it Andy Roddick tennis player, or Andy Roddick rocket-launcher?

Matter of fact, it was both Tuesday night at Indian Wells, in the Pacific Life Open, where the 20-year-old American prodigy left Swedish veteran Thomas Enqvist beaten and shellshocked.

If the 6-4, 6-4 defeat in just over an hour didn't jolt Enqvist, once No. 4 in the world and a former Australian Open finalist, then the barrage of 130-mph-plus serves Roddick sent at him certainly did.

Roddick opened his first service game with a 135-mph bomb that Enqvist actually got back into play. Two points later, Roddick hit a 140-mph ace. When it was over, Roddick had hit 15 aces, no double faults and had won 42 of the 56 points played on his serve. Enqvist did a masterful job of both returning some of the serves and remaining uninjured. One of Roddick's bombs caught the Swede in the knee and he was able to walk away. Swedish stoicism, presumably.

In the second set, Roddick closed out his service game with a 142-mph ace. Earlier in the set, he had hit an ace 141 mph and followed that with a fault measured at 147 mph.

There are several ways to give perspective to this kind of serving. Monday, Elena Dementieva, ranked 18th, took Jennifer Capriati to three sets while hitting first serves mostly in the 75-mph range, or about half as fast as Roddick's bigger serves. The men's serving record is held by England's Greg Rusedski, who hit one 149 mph in 1998 in this event, then held at the Hyatt stadium court. According to a tour official, the equipment that measures service speed now is more accurate now than it was in '98, making Roddick's 142 mph even more impressive.

Roddick said he sneaked a peek at the speed clock when he hit the 142.

"The ball was flying," he said. "I didn't feel my arm was totally alive tonight, and it was still getting up there pretty high."

Roddick said that being the first to hit the 150-mph mark is not a goal, but "If it happens, that's pretty cool, I guess."

Roddick's huge serve is both a weapon and a crowd-pleaser, but for those watching closely, there was more going on in the approach of the American prodigy now projected most likely to fill the soon-to-be void left when Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi stop playing.

When Roddick served for the first set, he worked his baseline game with patience and, while getting to set point with a 129-mph ace, moved Enqvist expertly from the baseline until he got the set point by simply forcing the Swede deep and off balance to end a rally.

Then, on match point, instead of packing more powder in the gun and pulling the trigger on yet another huge serve, he kicked one 104 mph that jumped up high on Enqvist's backhand side and followed it to the net for a winning volley.

"It's tough to play aggressive all the time against a guy like Thomas, who is pretty much cranking on every shot," Roddick said. "You have to mix it up and pick your spots. I think I did a pretty decent job of that tonight."

He also did a pretty decent job of getting the fans buzzing about his huge serves.

This was the first time Roddick has played in the desert, and his draw is such -- he is on the side that has opened up nicely with the injury withdrawal of Agassi -- that he is likely to have at least a few more matches to crank out some big serves. He is scheduled to play midday Wednesday, meaning those with tickets down low need to add one thing to their stash of caps, sun screen and water bottles.


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