INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The results page doesn't lie with Andy Roddick, who, in his 10th season on tour, has won only four Masters Series titles to add to his sole Grand Slam at the 2003 U.S. Open. He has been a very good and consistent player, highlighted by the fact that he and top-ranked Roger Federer are the only two men who have finished in the top 10 for eight years running.
That's a function of Roddick's willingness to improve and his unquenchable inner fire. As he says, he never has problems getting motivated for matches.
But it has been 3 1/2 years since he has won a prestigious ATP title (at 2006 Cincinnati), showing that, despite his efforts to keep himself relevant, the field continues to improve at a fast clip and it's getting more and more difficult for Roddick to remain a player to be feared.
In registering his 11th straight win over Tommy Robredo with a 6-3, 7-5 victory in the Indian Wells quarters Friday, Roddick showed off a well-rounded game.
Outside of a huge serve, he doesn't own a stroke that's overwhelming, but he does a lot of things right and has become a steady player from the backcourt. When he isn't rushing the net, he's more of a counterpuncher now, easily smoothing two-handed backhands crosscourt, mixing in low slices, looping forehands high or patiently waiting for the opportunity to attempt to hammer one.
He is not the same player he was back in 2003, when he could bludgeon foes with a heavy, inside-out forehand. Almost every decent guy on the tour can match his power off that wing, but they aren't always as accurate.
On the outside, the fast-talking Roddick doesn't appear to be a deep thinker, but if you watch him on court, you'll see he reads the plays well.
Trying to keep up with the likes of Federer, Rafael Nadal and now the new generation of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro has forced him into becoming a man with more options and a guy who has the ability to execute his more complicated plays.
"I think with the strings that have changed and the surface and conditions, I've definitely had to adjust," Roddick said. "I think the seven or eight guys that you see at the top now are capable of playing pretty high level on a consistent basis now, where it used to be, two and then three and then four, and it's kind of steadily gotten a little bit deeper. That's for sure, because guys come up and always push you."
In the semifinals, he'll play the hard-hitting Swede Robin Soderling, another man who has added finesse to his game, hence his No. 7 ranking. Roddick is 0-2 against Soderling, losing their matches indoors in 2008. In order to win the contest, he's going to have to find ways to get as many returns back in play as possible and scrape his way through points. The American has been working diligently on his return, taking a cue from Roger Federer, who doesn't usually try to blowtorch winners, just gets the ball back in play into a reasonable position and works the points.
The 25-year-old Swede has noticed how Roddick has evolved and is attempting to mimic his evolution as a thinking man's player. That's how he pulled off a 6-1, 7-6 (4) upset of No. 4 Murray, playing patiently until he got opportunities to strike.
"Roddick actually moves pretty well," Soderling said. "He plays really aggressive in his service games, and then he's not missing a lot when his opponent is serving. Of course, he goes for his shots when he has the opportunity, but he's not playing very, very aggressive."
Roddick has never won Indian Wells, and he'd love to do what two members of the greatest generation of U.S. players achieved: win all four North American Masters Series crowns: Indian Wells, Miami, Canada and Cincinnati. Of the four who combined for 27 Grand Slam titles -- Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang -- only Agassi and Chang were able to snare all four. Roddick would also like to become the first American to win the Indian Wells title since 2001 in a tournament that has been taken over by Europeans.
"I'd like to get to the first final and try to win here once," said Roddick, who is in his fourth Indian Wells semifinal. "It's about the only place in the North American swing that I haven't won before, so that would be nice." Woznaicki looks to prove herself against Jankovic Former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic's mini comeback continued with a 6-2, 6-4 semifinal victory over Sam Stosur and now it's up to new world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki to see if she can stop it in its tracks.
Wozniacki picked apart her close friend Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-3 in the other semifinal, combining a unique blend of offense and defense. She's never won a WTA Premier title before, but 2009 US Open finalist has put up fairly consistent results over the past year and with the now No. 3 Dinara Safina sidelined with a back injury, she was able to slip into the No.2 ranking. But to be able to solidify her status, the 19- year-old Dane needs to win a title the size of Indian Wells. She has never won a WTA Premier title before and has only reached one final, at 2009 Madrid. She can match Jankovic in the foot speed department, but she cannot hope to win the contest just by playing defense. She's going to have to take advantage of any short ball and let it rip or she'll leave the court on Sunday with her fourth consecutive loss to the Serbian. Wozniacki thinks she has the qualities of a real champ.
"I think I'm a fighter. My heart is at the right place, and I think that's very important," she said.