HOUSTON Count on Andy Roddick to put on a show.
Roddick overcame a second-set tantrum with some spectacular serving and shotmaking to get past Carlos Moya 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 Tuesday night at the Tennis Masters Cup, improving his chances of finishing the year ranked No. 1.
Roddick, who flew into town after the other entrants because he hosted ''Saturday Night Live'' last weekend, pounded 14 aces at up to 137 mph and a total of 27 winners to beat the seventh-ranked Moya in their opening round-robin match.
The result eliminated Wimbledon champ Roger Federer, currently No. 3, from contention for the top spot in the ATP Tour computer rankings. Roddick still has to worry, though, about No. 2 Juan Carlos Ferrero, the man he beat in the U.S. Open final. Roddick replaced Ferrero at No. 1 last week.
Ferrero meets Andre Agassi on Wednesday in their second round-robin turn, while Federer plays David Nalbandian.
Roddick's play plummeted Tuesday after he chastised chair umpire Mike Morrissey for overruling a call in the second set. Other than that lapse, the American was at his best for long stretches. So was Moya, the 1998 French Open champion, who actually had two more winners than Roddick, and smacked 10 aces.
It came down to who had steelier nerves late, and that was Roddick, who got the lone break of the third set in the eighth game. He earned a break point by running forward for a nice backhand volley that Moya hit wide; a forehand error by Moya made it 5-3. Turning to the seats where girlfriend Mandy Moore and coach Brad Gilbert were seated, Roddick pumped his fists and let out, ''Come on!''
Roddick then served out the match with the help of an ace and a service winner.
In a match of much lower quality earlier Tuesday, No. 6 Rainer Schuettler beat No. 4 Guillermo Coria 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. They combined for 13 double-faults, 84 unforced errors and 28 break points.
Two hours before facing Moya, Roddick entertained fans simply by swatting strokes with Gilbert on a practice court. Dozens of people leaned up against a chain-link fence to get a closer glimpse or snap a photo of Roddick.
He started the real match slowly, losing the first five points. But then he got going, dropping just three points on his serve over the entire first set. Roddick flashed various skills, including some serve-and-volley play and a delicate drop shot that ended the first set.
And then the match changed complexion completely.
After losing the opening game of the second set, Roddick faced two break points at 15-40 when he hit a serve he thought was an ace. But as he started walking to the other end of the baseline, Morrissey overruled a line judge and told Roddick it was a fault (a TV replay appeared to show the ball caught the line).
Roddick began arguing.
''That's how I saw it,'' Morrissey said.
''One hundred percent?'' Roddick asked.
''Yes,'' Morrissey said.
''There's no way you can be 100 percent about that!'' Roddick yelled.
When play resumed, Roddick promptly double-faulted, handing Moya a 2-0 edge, then used his racket like a baseball bat to swat a ball toward the seats.
By now, Roddick was distracted. He let Moya's ace fly by on the first point of the next game, which ended with Roddick's forehand into the net to put the Spaniard up 3-0.
At the changeover, Roddick lit into Morrissey again, cursing and saying, ''You blew it. ... You should keep your trap shut. You get the itch whenever it's a big point.''
Roddick did save four break points in the fourth game, closing it with an ace. Then he had a chance to get back into it with a break point at 3-1, but Roddick put a backhand return into the net. Moya held there and forced the third set, where Roddick was simply the picture of cool.
Roddick was known to toss a racket or two during his distinguished junior career and rarely held back early on as a pro.
But he's toned down his act considerably since hiring Gilbert in June. Significantly, Roddick went 25-11 this season before teaming with Gilbert, and is 46-6 after. He won one title in 2003 without Gilbert, five with him. A sixth would make Roddick the No. 1 player heading into 2004.
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