SAN JOSE, Calif. - Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish used to race to high school — Roddick behind the wheel of a beat-up Chevy Blazer and Fish in a Ford Mustang.
Each took what he believed to be the best route.
Fish usually won. He typically arrived in 22 minutes, and Roddick 25.
They had a different speed contest Sunday.
Roddick rode his booming serve to win his first title of 2004 with a thrilling 7-6 (13), 6-4 victory over his good friend in the Siebel Open.
The top-seeded Roddick, who’s ranked No. 3, won his 12th career title and improved to 12-2 this year by outlasting Fish in a fabulous first set. It featured sizzling serves by both and plenty of razzing between players who lived together for a year in high school.
As they shook hands, Roddick pulled Fish into an embrace and patted him on the behind.
“We just know what each other’s going to do,” Roddick said. “I found myself going against what I do instinctively because he knows what I do instinctively. ... I know when I make a joke, no matter how intense it is, he’s going to get it. No stepping on toes.”
In four meetings, the two have played four tiebreakers. Roddick saved four set points in Sunday’s tiebreaker and had five break points before winning the ninth game of the second set — the only service break of the match.
Roddick won the tiebreaker after the players traded big serves and painted the lines with pinpoint groundstrokes.
Fish took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker before Roddick found his rhythm. Roddick took a 13-12 lead when Fish netted a backhand. Roddick then missed a forehand to make it 13-all. He finished off the set with an acrobatic overhead and jumped up and down in celebration — and relief.
Later, Roddick joked to Fish: “Don’t be jealous of my hops.”
The first set took up 55 minutes of the 1-hour, 35-minute match.
“It was one of those tiebreakers when anything could happen,” Fish said. “I grew up playing Andy, and I’m sure we had longer tiebreakers than this. We didn’t have umpires. That backhand he hit on set point was out.”
Fish lived with Roddick’s family in Boca Raton, Fla., in 1999. Both players trained under coach Stanford Boster. The doors to their rooms were five feet from each other, and they spent many a night battling it out in basketball and pingpong. According to Fish, Roddick “bricked” his layups.
When Roddick won the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston last November to secure the year’s No. 1 ranking, Fish interrupted Roddick’s postmatch news conference by giving him a champagne bath.
Of their relationship, Roddick said: “We were like brothers. We would fight, then we’d walk out of the house holding hands three minutes later.”
Roddick won his first title since capturing his first Grand Slam tournament in September at the U.S. Open, and girlfriend Mandy Moore cheered him on all week as he hit a tournament-high 79 aces and lost only one service game in five matches. Fish was right behind Roddick in aces with 72 in a tournament that promoted itself with the slogan “Fast Service Guaranteed.”
The third-seeded Fish outaced Roddick 17-16 after slamming a career-high 29 in his three-set semifinal upset of Andre Agassi on Saturday night. But Roddick had one more winner — 35-34. Fish also committed 29 unforced errors to 17 for Roddick.
The players combined for 11 aces in the first five games.
Roddick tossed his racket to the ground several times and let out his frustration on chair umpire Steve Ullrich after a let call on his serve in the first set.
“Why do we both seem confused?” said Roddick, whose coach, Brad Gilbert, won this tournament in 1999. “We were both ready for the next point. Why don’t you turn the machine off and use your own brain?”
Fish also argued with Ullrich.
It marked the first all-American final on the tour since Aug. 17, 2003, in Cincinnati, where Roddick saved two match points to beat Fish in a third-set tiebreaker.
The last final here featuring two Americans was in 1998, when Agassi defeated Pete Sampras.
After the singles final, Fish had a short break before going back on court to team with James Blake to beat the fourth-seeded tandem of Rick Leach and Brian MacPhie 6-2, 7-5 in the doubles final.
“James carried me relatively well today,” Fish said with a smile.
Watching Rafa Nadal churn his way through the claycourt season over the past few weeks, it seems nothing much has changed since his French Open triumph a year ago despite a lengthy injury layoff.
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