MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Andy Roddick was quick to hail the influence of his coach Jimmy Connors following his impressive victory over Marat Safin in the Australian Open third round on Friday.
Connors only arrived in Melbourne on Friday morning after staying behind in the U.S. following the death of his mother, and his presence in the stands lifted the sixth seed to a 7-6 2-6 6-4 7-6 win over the Russian former champion.
“For him to go through what he has gone through, hop on a flight, arrive this morning and stay up for me was great,” Roddick told a news conference. “I hadn’t seen him for five to six weeks and I’m pretty excited to have him here.”
Roddick said he had first felt the possibility of Connors’s imminent arrival following his second-round win over Marc Gicquel.
“I got an inkling that he might come over,” Roddick said. “I was just concerned with how he was doing emotionally but we were talking on the phone and when he knew I would be playing Marat I think he didn’t want to miss that.”
Roddick, a former world number one, started work with Connors last year after slipping out of the world’s top 10 and apart from reviving his own fortunes he believes the presence of the eight-times grand slam winner is lifting the game of tennis.
“Just having past champions around and contributing to the game is great,” he said. “He has that aura about him and I think it is good for the sport, especially as he had been out away from the game for so long.”
Roddick, a former U.S. Open champion, said Connors had helped him remodel his game.
“I like his energy and I had to change my game a lot, we had to go 180 degrees with the way I played,” he said. “He has helped me get in the right position more and to make the right choice of shots.”
Roddick admitted that there had not been much to choose between him and Safin.
“I got all my bad tennis out of the way in one set,” Roddick said. “There was not a lot between us. I’m pretty happy because Marat is one guy you do not want to play in the third round because he is a quality player. I just had to try and tough it out.”
Roddick said he was not surprised by Safin’s displays of petulance.
“With Marat you know you are going to get an emotional roller-coaster,” he said. “You just have to try and focus on yourself and I was able to do that tonight.”
Having survived such a difficult match, Roddick faces another tough-looking contest against Croatian ninth seed Mario Ancic, who he has beaten four times in four career meetings.
“Mario is a very different player to even when I played him in the Wimbledon semi-finals (in 2004),” Roddick said. “He used to be inconsistent but he is now a very serious threat.”