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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tennis: Verdasco rallies to beat Roddick in SAP Open final

AP Sports Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. Fernando Verdasco had come so close in recent matches against top-10 players only to fall short at the end. He saved his best tennis for the final set against Andy Roddick, bringing an end to a frustrating streak.

Verdasco rallied to beat Roddick 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 Sunday in the SAP Open, earning his fourth career title and ending a 15-match losing streak against top-10 players.

Verdasco often did just enough to lose against the world's best players, going the limit in three-set losses to Roger Federer, Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Murray at last year's season-ending tournament in London and dropping a five-setter to Nikolay Davydenko in the fourth round of last month's Australian Open.

"I know that against the top-10 guys there are always tough matches," Verdasco said. "Last year in a lot of them I was really close and I won finally. I was a little bit unlucky in London against Federer, Del Potro and Murray. Those were three matches I could have won and I lost all three. This is a match I hope gives me confidence. I'm so happy I was able to beat him here. It's special for me and I'm happy I did it."

This matchup lacked the high level of play and intensity of the last final between the top seeds in this tournament back in 2002, when top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt beat Andre Agassi 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. But there were a few tense moments in the final set when both players were dominating their serves.

The servers lost only two points in the first five games of the final set with Roddick taking a 3-2 lead. Verdasco earned the only break point of the final set with a backhand cross-court winner at 30-all in the ninth game. Roddick then hit a forehand volley into the top of the net on the following point, giving Verdasco a 5-4 lead.

Verdasco lost the first two points on his service game, before winning the final four. His 141 mph ace made it 30-all and Roddick followed by hitting a forehand long off a 93 mph second serve. Verdasco then closed it out with his 15th ace.

"I served much better in the second and third set than in the first set," Verdasco said. "I also was more aggressive. I started to push him a little bit more and tried to play inside the court and move toward the net."

Verdasco became the first Spaniard to win a title in the Bay Area since Manuel Santana did it in 1964 in Berkeley.

Verdasco had lost seven consecutive matches to Roddick. His only previous wins came when Roddick retired in a 2005 match and when Roddick overruled a linesman on what would have been his match point only to see Verdasco rally for the three-set win in Rome.

"He has game," Roddick said. "He has improved. The knock on him a couple of years ago was he could hit the ball a ton but he would get in his own way sometimes. He's definitely been improving."

After breaking Verdasco's serve twice to win the opening set, Roddick seemed to be in a good position in the match. But Verdasco picked up his first break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. He hit winners on the first two points, then was the beneficiary of a fortunate net-cord winner to earn three break-point chances, leading Roddick to throw his racket at the net.

Roddick erased one break opportunity before hitting a backhand wide to lose the game. He whacked a ball into the second deck, earning a code violation warning from the umpire.

The frustration only grew later in the set. Roddick blew four break-point chances in the following game, then took out his anger on the officials in the sixth game.

Roddick was upset at a ball that he thought should have been called out and yelled at the umpire, "You can't see if the ball is an inch out! ... It's not possible!"

After Verdasco held in that game for a 4-2 lead, Roddick screamed into his towel, "Make them all machines! All of them! Automated scorekeeper."

Roddick didn't even know if he would be able to play this week because of a pinched nerve injury that caused him to lose feeling in his fingers in the fifth set of a quarterfinal loss at the Australian Open. But he was pleased.

"I was underpracticed, I was underprepared and I felt that way," Roddick said. "It was a game-time decision. I said I would have to work my way into the tournament. It felt like I was just doing that the whole time. It felt like I was trying to find something as opposed to earning something."

Verdasco also was dealing with a nerve injury in his leg that limited his practice time and almost forced him to miss this tournament.

"It was a very big surprise to be in the final and even more to win," he said.

In the doubles final, Americans Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey beat Benjamin Becker and Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (3), 7-5.