DOHA // Andy Roddick's blistering serve has captivated crowds all round the world and it was witnessed at its best last night as the American made smooth progress into the semi-finals of the Qatar Open. Only once did the 2003 US Open champion's rapid delivery look like faltering. That was when his Romanian opponent Victor Henescu held his solitary break point in the third game of the second set.
Roddick's magnificent response was to send down a trio of aces which the on-court radar gun recorded at speeds of 203, 214 and 202kph. Danger successfully averted, the fourth seed was then able to cruise to his straight sets 6-3, 6-2 victory in 67 impressive minutes. "That was the only time I got into trouble and I was able to come up with big serves when it mattered which is a a good sign," he said.
Overall, Roddick managed to get 84 per cent of his first serves on target, which particularly delighted him. "I don't think I have had that high a percentage in a match before so I was surprised and pleased with that," he said. Roddick is acutely aware, however, that he cannot expect to win big tournaments with just a big serve and he was just as keen to look at the statistics on how he coped with Hanescu's delivery.
They too made pleasant reading. "I have been close to 50 per cent of return points won so far which is a big stat for me," he reflected. "If I can put up those type of numbers from now on I will be tough." After a tight start to the first of the quarter-finals, Hanescu paid heavily for trying to be too cute with a high backhand volley from on top of the net to present Roddick with three break points.
The gangling Romanian, ranked 48 in the world, realised the importance of hanging on at that stage, but was able to save only two of them and knew from that point that he was up against it. Hanescu's serve which never threatened the 200mph barrier that Roddick frequently shattered, fell twice more in the entertaining encounter which endorsed the view that the American, winner of the Dubai championship last March, is not just making up the numbers in this strong field.
"I'm feeling strong," he said, refusing to complain about the fact that he was on court until 11pm on Wednesday night and was then asked to open a Centre Court programme of four quarter-finals yesterday. "That's not as dramatic as it sounds," he said. "A four o'clock start this afternoon gave me plenty of time to recover from last night's match. He is low key, however, about the prospects of a Middle East double. He added: "That's a good talking point, I suppose, but Dubai was 10 months ago in a different season, so I don't see that much of a connection. It would be nice to win both, though."