Re: How bad is Roddick?
This article was in Tennis Magazine late last year:
Things haven't changed much except that Goldfine was found wanting and Andy retreated yet further into the family.
What it comes down to is that Andy is still pretty good but hasn't come up to expectations.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
YOU'RE ANDY RODDICK. AT 21, YOU NABBED A U.S. OPEN TITLE AND SCRAMBLED TO THE TOP OF THE TENNIS HEAP. BUT IN THE TWO YEARS SINCE, YOU'VE BEEN TAKEN DOWN ONE NOTCH, THEN TWO, THEN THREE. WHEN THE OTHER GUYS ARE IMPROVING AND YOU'RE NOT. . .By BRUCE SCHOENFELD
YOU'RE ANDY RODDICK ON A STEAMY AUGUST AFTERNOON, AND YOU HAVEN'T WON A GRAND SLAM TOURNAMENT IN ALMOST TWO YEARS. You stand shirtless at the baseline of a practice court in Washington D.C.—offering a glimpse of the topography that a strenuous workout regimen has etched into your abdomen—and rifle ground strokes at the head of your coach, Dean Goldfine, who lingers in the general vicinity of the net.
You hit three, four, five in a row with increasing urgency, but Goldfine manages to deflect each back over the net. With your face screwed into a grimace, you hit the next shot as if you're channeling all the frustration of the past two years into one swing. Goldfine gets a racquet on it like a hockey goalie, but that's all he can do. The ball ricochets into the next court.
An awkward silence settles over the two dozen fans who have gathered to watch you hit. It's as if they've unwittingly stumbled into a domestic dispute, except that only you seem irked. Finally someone breaks the tension by saying, “Is that why Brad Gilbert quit?”
“He wouldn't have stayed in there to take it,” you snap. “He would have been at the side fence, talking to someone.”
It's just a quip, one of those blink-of-an-eye one-liners that you seem to toss off so easily in press conferences and live interviews. You may have the quickest mind in tennis. But as usual, your wit provides access to thoughts that a more considered answer wouldn't.
With Gilbert, you won the 2003 U.S. Open and finished that season ranked No. 1 in the world. In the months that followed, Gilbert enjoyed the attention, talking up his role in your success and promoting his book, but you stopped winning the big tournaments. Worse, perhaps, you lost your status as the crossover star who just might save men's tennis. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the hot names now.
In came Goldfine, whose résumé includes stints with Todd Martin, Aaron Krickstein, and Jared Palmer. He's never had a pupil win a major or spend a day at No. 1, but his loyalty is unquestioned. He's a coach, friend, psychologist, Yahtzee partner, even a human target, if that's what you want.
Life with Goldfine is smoother, but you remain edgy. In your first tournament after Wimbledon, you lose to Robby Ginepri in Indianapolis, then criticize the ATP schedule as “ridiculous.” You break a commitment to play in Los Angeles and go home to Austin, where you sprint up hills and lift weights. In Washington, you crack a Mercedes-Benz logo with your racquet during one practice session, then ask to have a spectator removed during another. You can't believe you showed up to play San Jose in February after reaching the Australian Open semifinals and were greeted by the media not with plaudits but with a post-mortem: Why didn't you win? You're playing better under Goldfine than you ever did with Gilbert, yet everyone wonders what's wrong with your game.
Truth is, there are days when you wonder, too. Most of them happen when you're across the net from Roger Federer. “He'll have to wait for Federer to slip a little bit,” says Carlos Moya about you— and after the way Federer played at Wimbledon, you can't help but think the same. “It gets frustrating,” Goldfine says. “Andy's out there on the court, he feels like he played the perfect point, and he loses the point. He says, 'What do I have to do to win?'”
At its most discouraging, such as after losing to No. 62 Jose Acasuso at Roland Garros or No. 68 Gilles Muller at the U.S. Open, you begin to doubt your future. Before Wimbledon, you tell British journalist Paul Weaver that your goal is “to win at least another Slam.” To Weaver, that seems like setting your sights astonishingly low. Federer, he writes, “could well win three or four more titles at Wimbledon alone.”
“Roddick beats lower-ranked players very consistently,” Federer says, but that seems like damning with faint praise because you sure can't beat him . You've won only once in 11 tries, taken just four of 28 sets lifetime. You're magnanimous, handling the press conferences with grace, yet it feels like you're wearing someone else's suit. You're no Pat Rafter, equally comfortable at No. 1 or No. 5, or Yevgeny Kafelnikov, with inscrutable goals and mysterious motivations. You grew up playing and following team sports, a prototypical American who embraces the Lombardi ethos of winning no matter what the cost. “Being No. 1 is the American mind-set, and you see that in Andy,” says Tarik Benhabiles, your coach from 1999 to 2003. “He has to be No. 1 in everything.”
To see you play horse or poker, it becomes clear why even losing to a man who played three perfect sets at Wimbledon keeps you up at night. You once went an entire season as a 12-and-under playing the Florida circuit and beyond and never lost a match. “Andy's tasted it,” Taylor Dent says. “I'm sure if you had him on the couch, he'd say he honestly believes he has the talent to be No. 1.”
But how to get from here to there? Maybe you're thinking about that as you turn back to the practice court and slap a forehand into the net. “Oh, wow, that was special,” you sneer, your contempt turned toward nobody but yourself.
YOU'RE ANDY RODDICK, AND PEOPLE KNOW THE NAME. You became famous before you could consider the ramifications. Your dalliance with Mandy Moore was far more publicized than the weakness in your backhand. A larger American audience saw you host Saturday Night Live than win the U.S. Open.
Your career has had a peculiar trajectory, more hang glider than bell curve. You'd barely begun being the hunter, a talented young American on the rise, when you became the hunted. One minute you were helping Pete Sampras prepare for a Davis Cup tie, and the next minute, it seemed, you were beating him, on your way to fulfilling veteran tennis journalist Curry Kirkpatrick's 2002 prediction that you would “rescue, regenerate, and own American tennis.”
You're barely 23, yet the expectations weighing on you are those of a seasoned champion. “At 17, if I won a match, that was a great result,” you say. “Now, if I don't win the tournament, [journalists] will be writing stuff about me.”
Your game is a career now, with all that entails. It funds a foundation, a retinue, a way of life: sushi dinners at Matsuhisa and steaks at the Ivy. Gone are the trucker caps and unsightly visors, replaced by Lacoste Wimbledon whites. They make you look as uncomfortable as an 8-year-old at a wedding, but they fill your bank account.
Last edited by euroka1; 06-18-2006 at 12:07 PM.