Roddick comes of age on grass

WITH Wimbledon firmly in his sights, Andy Roddick came of age on grass, displaying a mix of maturity and power during a memorable week in west London.

He beat his boyhood idol, equalled the fastest-ever serve in tennis and curbed his often-fiery temper to win his first grasscourt title at the Stella Artois Championships.

"Sometimes your titles come when you least expect them," the 20-year-old smiled after receiving the enormous silver cup at Queen's Club.

"I came in here not really knowing where I was... there were a lot of changes going on, and I played great tennis all week."

In fact, it was his opponents who were left not knowing where they were when Roddick cranked up his serve to its full potential.

In the semi-final of the $939,800 event, he beat his childhood hero Andre Agassi in a riveting contest, slamming down a 149 miles (239.8 km) per hour service to equal the fastest recorded in the history of the sport.

"It is just a number and only worth one point," Roddick insisted modestly.

But the truth is it is probably worth one or two points a set when opponents take a step further back to face that destructive weapon.

Only once all week, after a close call in that semi-final, did Roddick's volatile temper boil over and he wrecked a courtside dustbin.

"I'm in England, I've got to turn some of it down a little, don't I?" he grinned sheepishly when asked if he had made an effort to curb his exuberance.

"I'm proud of the way I have behaved. Apart from a slight blow up where I trashed a trash can..."

Roddick has every right to be proud of his behaviour and his performance.

Still licking his wounds after a first round French Open exit and a painful parting from long-term mentor Tarik Benhabiles in the days following that loss, Roddick pulled himself together to clinch his biggest title.

"This is a big tournament, before one of the Grand Slams. They are all nice but, sure, this is my biggest title," he said.

"It was probably one of the toughest draws I have had."

Anxious to avoid over-confidence, Roddick is clearly looking forward to Wimbledon, the grasscourt Grand Slam where he lost in the third round last year to Greg Rusedski, the player with whom he shares the serve-speed record.

"For sure I feel I will be better prepared than ever before for Wimbledon," he said. "And more confident.

"You have got to be careful, though, because I felt good going into the French Open and I don't even want to talk about that.

"But If I could take this form into Wimbledon I would be really happy."