Re: Anyone with Times Select, could you post the Andy article by Selena Roberts?
A Tip for Roddick: Beware of Imitations
THE most ornery of legends has resurfaced in Andy Roddick's inner circle with a hip replacement and midlife spectacles and mortality on his mind.
At age 54, Jimmy Connors couldn't rest in peace without competing with John McEnroe once more, if only for oxygen in the room. And it would be senseless to continue his Greta Garbo routine when idols from the pet-rock days are so valued. (On sale now: Connors's newly released four-pack of tennis DVD's is fetching $108.)
Connors is back, more marketable than ever. But he must be wrestling with his own Jimbo legacy -- and what lessons he should leave the younger generation -- because Connors has willed his irascibility to Roddick.
Be careful what you copy, Andy. He had a romance with Chris Evert; you're supposedly canoodling with Maria Sharapova. He blasted away with two-fisted backhands; your two-fister is suspect but gaining momentum. He was a feisty lefty who flattened every ball on the rise; you're a hard-working righty starting to reveal the same assertiveness. He was an unabashed hellion who developed a nasty streak as a strategy; what will become of you?
Six weeks into their coach-player relationship, as the genuine Roddick has morphed into a star of manufactured prickliness, it is worth wondering what Connors is feeding his protege: practice balls or a persecution complex.
Roddick already has a sarcastic gremlin in him -- years of interviews have revealed punky moments -- but his good nature has always smoothed over the immature edges.
His snide side has been class-clown stuff, nothing serious. An earnest scout lurked inside when it counted. He once teared-up for joy after winning the United States Open, and helped save a fellow player from a burning hotel. He once reversed his own match point after a linesman missed a call and wept when recounting the day he traveled from London to Paris to fire his protector, friend and coach, Tarik Benhabiles.
In 2001, at age 19, Roddick was steeped in pure emotion again after a horrendous overrule by an umpire, a call that unraveled his composure in the fifth set of his quarterfinal match at the United States Open.
His eyes popped from his head on springs. He unleashed his anger at the umpire with expletives. Then, long after the match, he was half ashamed of his antics, half devastated by the loss. His voice shook throughout his news conference.
His opponent that night was Lleyton Hewitt. Today, if the sun outmuscles the rain clouds, they will meet again in a rivalry that was expected to dominate the Tour before Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal graced tennis with jazz v. rock encounters.
For the past five years, Hewitt and Roddick have been on parallel paths, joint spirals. Hewitt won the United States Open on his way to a No. 1 ranking in 2001. Roddick did the same in 2003. Both soon vanished from the top.
''Our careers have been kind of similar,'' Roddick said Monday. ''We both, you know, have been at the top and then we've had our struggles.''
Hewitt was overtaken by injury and Roddick by self-doubt. Hewitt's knee is healing; and Roddick's mind seems clearer.
Or is the voice in Roddick's head just louder? For years, Roddick has been told to play inside the baseline, to pounce on balls on the rise, to own the direction of every point. Only Connors's gospel has resonated.
''I think the source has made a big impact on Andy,'' said Patrick McEnroe, who has, at times, mentored Roddick as America's Davis Cup captain, adding: ''All I can judge is what I've seen on the court in his matches, covering all his matches in Cincinnati and then here. It's obvious that he's playing more aggressively, he's stepping in more. Whatever it is, it's working.''
Connors deserves credit for kicking Roddick's passivity to the curb. But Roddick's mean bite on match day is of costume fangs. He forces his strut and shouts and fist-pumps at odd moments in his matches. He has been combative to normal questions and oddly unaccountable to scrutiny. It's not him at all.
In a newspaper ad by a Roddick sponsor, the copy read: ''Doubters were silenced'' by his Tour win at Cincinnati this summer. Did he sign off on this thinking? In the past, Roddick understood that there are no doubters, just results.
Now Roddick's unnatural edginess with the current queries about his game -- an impressive show, as everyone has noted -- seems a reflection of Connors. What has Jimbo been telling Roddick?
''I guess the best way to describe it is that we've become friends,'' Connors said yesterday. ''And I happen to know a little bit about tennis. That's kind of the way it is. To be able to help him with his tennis, that's what it's all about.''
If it were only tennis wisdom and not temperament tips. The sport already has one Jimmy Connors knockoff prowling around the game, rebelling against authority and irritating opponents with his unapologetic brashness.
That's Hewitt. So go ahead, Andy, copy Connors's on-court aggression and two-fisted fire, but be wary of inheriting the surly gene.
Roddick's best chance to succeed -- to be among the elite players again -- is to be true to himself, not an ornery icon.