The former US Open champ, who made the final in Doha earlier this month, continued his solid run of form advancing to the Aussie Open semifinals when defending champ Novak Djokovic retired from their match while A-Rod was leading 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2, 2-1. It's his fourth semifinal appearance Down Under and first since 2007.
The American baller believes his much-improved fitness allowed him to be aggressive with his positioning on-court.
Yeah, I noticed [the positioning] a lot on the first ball. When they hit a return, I'm able to stabilize on that one, or at least get there a second quicker and at least neutralize that one. I'm not getting hurt on that ball as much, which helps. When I get going, I'm able to kind of move a little bit, and that's nice also.
And did he realize Nole was struggling with the conditions?
I didn't. I was kind of just playing my side of the court and I didn't notice until the umpire said that they had someone coming out to see him.
In his post-match presser, Nole discussed his reasons for retiring in the big match:
Well, the main reason is cramping and soreness in the whole body. I think the people could see that I was struggling with movement. I couldn't serve the way I served in the first two sets. That third set I just started dropping 20, 30 kilometers per hour first serve. Obviously wasn't ‑‑ it was much easier for him to return. He saw that longer rallies are not comfortable for me at that point, so he was using it wisely. Really unfortunate way to end up my Australian Open 2009 here in this way. Really tried my best, but sometimes you can't fight against your own body.
Big kudos to A-Rod for coming through this section of the draw and making me look like I might know a little something of what I write about. He's looking fit and confident but he'll have a stern, if near impossible, task of defeating a now-zoning Roger Federer, who crushed Argentine Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-0, 6-0, for a spot in the Aussie Open final.
Rich Rodriguez writes the tennis blog Down the Line!