By Chris Starrs, special to EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com
ATLANTA – In his last competition before heading to London and the Olympics, Andy Roddick fought off fatigue, a sore right shoulder and a flat first set Sunday to defeat Gilles Muller 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 to capture the BB&T Atlanta Open.
Roddick, the tournament’s fourth seed, won his second championship of 2012 and claimed the title in the city where he won his first professional crown 11 years ago. The 29-year-old Roddick has now won 32 titles and improved his career record to 607-209.
After a three-set semifinal battle Saturday night against fellow Olympian John Isner (the tournament’s top seed), Roddick was not sharp in the first set Sunday, giving up a break point for only the second time in the tournament to fall behind 2-0. Muller broke him again to go up 5-1 and quickly closed out the set with three aces to take the final point.
Roddick, now ranked 27th in the world, said he wasn’t particularly tired after Saturday’s match with Isner, adding he felt Muller just got off to a better start. He also said losing the first set in rather rapid fashion may have actually helped him in the long run.
"Honestly, it was probably good it got away from me so fast – I could just kind of let it go, and it was over so fast I didn’t have time to dwell on it," he said.
At the conclusion of the first set, Roddick took an extended medical timeout to have his right shoulder examined, but he certainly displayed no ill effects in the next two sets.
"I don’t know if I slept on it wrong, but there was something in there that was pinched today," said Roddick, who recorded 18 aces to Muller’s 20. "I felt I could hit straight ahead OK, but I was lacking movement. I wasn’t able to snap the ball off too well. I don’t feel I had my best serve today. It was getting up there and it was a little dead for whatever reason."
The unseeded Muller – who was playing in his third career final and his first in seven years -- and Roddick matched each other point for point in the second set, but Roddick won five of the first six points in the tiebreaker to set the stage for the deciding set.
"I played well in the first two sets and at the end of that second set I got very tight because I felt like I was in position to win that match," said Muller, who committed 10 double faults, five in the third set. "But I was too nervous to close it and then Andy started playing better, started returning my serves and putting balls in the court and I started to miss a lot and started to feel tired."
In the final set, Roddick broke Muller twice and peeled of eight aces to cruise to victory, tossing his racket in the stands and awarding the championship trophy to a fan at the end of the match. After suffering an injury at the Australian Open in January, Roddick has turned his year around, winning 11 of his last 12 matches going into the Olympics.
"It’s been a frustrating year," he said. "I started off with the injury in Australia and had a tear in my hamstring. I’m not a good patient. They told me eight weeks and I tried to play in three and it was pretty apparent. That leads to losing, which leads to confidence issues. It was good to get back to neutral and I was fortunate to turn the corner at Eastbourne (where he was victorious in mid-June) and played pretty well at Wimbledon. And I played well here, so I think things are back on track. Hopefully it was a blip on the radar."
When asked if he planned to return to Atlanta next July, Roddick demurred, which led to him being asked if he was moving close to retirement.
"I used to deal in decades, and then I was dealing in years, and now I’m dealing in months," he said. "We’ll see how everything goes. I’ve enjoyed my time (in Atlanta). I definitely would come back… (But) I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s been a long year. I enjoy playing here and I hope to be able to come back.
"As I said, I deal in a lot shorter increments now than I used to and I’m going to continue to do that. I’ve made a conscious effort not to get too far ahead of myself the last little bit and it’s been working for me."
Harrison, Ebden claim doubles title
Although sixth-seeded Ryan Harrison was eliminated in the first round of singles play by James Blake, he teamed with Australian Matthew Ebden to win the doubles championships at the BB&T Atlanta Open Sunday afternoon, defeating Zavier Malisse of Belgium and American Michael Russell 6-3, 3-6, 10-6.
Harrison, who will join singles champion Andy Roddick, John Isner, Donald Young and twins Bob and Mike Bryan as the American representatives at the Olympics, said winning Sunday was a nice sendoff for London.
"It doesn’t matter if it’s singles, doubles, triples or whatever," he said. "If you win titles, it’s still a title and we’re extremely excited and you can always build off it."
Harrison said that even though he was disappointed to lose early in the singles draw, he still made the most of his time in Atlanta.
"Once I lost singles, it was a good opportunity because the hotel is right here, the courts are right here, so to stay here in Atlanta is comfortable for me because I’m from the South," he said. "I used this as a prep week and a good week for a doubles title. I couldn’t be more excited and fired up going into next week."
Harrison and Ebden have played together in five tournaments (going 12-3) and are 2-for-2 in tourney finals. They won in their first tournament together last July in Newport and in June advanced to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.
Ebden also won the doubles title in Atlanta last year with Alex Bogomolov Jr.