Sony Ericsson Open: Men's Finals Preview

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Sony Ericsson Open: Men's Finals Preview
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With an upset-stricken field taking over in Miami this year, two opportunistic veterans have stepped up and advanced to Sunday’s final in the Sony Ericsson Open.

Andy Roddick’s progression to the championship Sunday has been well-embraced by the fans at Crandon Park. After training in the Florida area as a junior, Roddick has seen many of the same faces year in and year out for more than a decade.

The tournament staff and transportation crew have almost become like a second family for the 28-year-old, allowing the American to feel a comfort level that is required when capturing one of the sport’s biggest titles.

Roddick’s opponent on Sunday really has no affiliation with Florida—or the American crowd, for that matter. What Tomas Berdych has done during the past 10 days in Miami has been pretty much what he’s lacked his entire career: consistency.

Upsetting Roger Federer in the fourth round, Berdych overcame a sluggish start to dismiss Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals before harnessing all of his weaponry to dismantle Robin Soderling in the semifinals.

Berdych appears to have finally connected the dots in his suspect mental game—a game that has always shown promise, but seldom resolve.

Keeping all of the factors in check as we break down the second Masters 1000 final of the year, let’s take a closer look into Sunday’s marquee match-up.

Andy Roddick vs. Tomas Berdych

Roddick leads the pair’s career head-to-head meetings 5-2, capturing three of five matches on hard-courts.

Not having to write about the top four players in the world at this stage in an event is difficult, to say the least. As a writer, you expect—and you’re used to talking about—the best when it’s supposed to count, while having the history and statistics to back it up.

Although Sunday’s final will not be a Federer vs. Nadal masterpiece, it will certainly mean the world to the two participants.

For starters, Roddick hasn’t won a Masters 1000 title since 2006 in Cincinnati, while Berdych’s biggest title came at the Paris Masters in 2005.

Roddick has, of course, plugged away on Tour at the very top of the sport, reaching a number of high-profile finals before encountering one too many heartbreaking losses. A few Wimbledon finals here and a U.S. Open loss there have made Roddick a mentally stronger player—with the lack of prominence allowing for his consistent longevity.

Facing Roddick on the other side of the court will be one of the most promising—and most misguided—players of the modern era. Holding visibly no weaknesses in his game, Berdych has power to spare and great movement for a guy his size.

His results, however, have not followed the path of his proposed talent. Losing many head-scratching matches in the past, Berdych has fallen short, retired, and simply given up on more than one occasion.

With a new outlook in Miami, Berdych seems to be enjoying himself on court as of late. Smiling before entering center court, the tall Czech has stayed in every match this week—even when he was forced to come back and fight. Will Berdych be able to cap his Miami run with one final upset? I’d definitely be surprised if he did.

Berdych has without question stunned everyone in Miami by making the finals, but he’s playing against a confident and well-versed foe on Sunday—one who knows how to win when he’s not playing his best.

Roddick has slightly more variety off of his serve than Berdych, which will aid him when the points get tight. Berdych is far superior off of his ground strokes than Roddick, holding much better form and power.

However, Roddick knows that if he hangs in the points long enough with Berdych, the 6′4″ Monte Carlo resident will likely crack.

Roddick did mention in his post-match presser after defeating Nadal that he was aware that Berdych will want to keep the points long.

Keeping with the theme of modern tennis, I’d say that Roddick is the more fit of the two—and he will be able to last in short or long points more effectively.

Berdych has been playing at an ultrahigh level, but he will be under a new kind of pressure on Sunday: The pressure of capturing the biggest title of his career.

Roddick already has a Miami crown to his name—and he has dealt with the finish line more often than Berdych.

This match will come down to the return of serve more than anything, keeping in mind the sonic serving of both players. I’ve mentioned that Berdych has better technique, but Roddick is the far better competitor.

When it comes down to winning titles, I’ll take a competitor over pretty technique any day.

Pick: Roddick in straight sets.

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