Re: The "Let's Just Hope He's Still in the top 10 When it's Over" Spring HC Season Th
The hot ticket: Roddick's the US star, but headed to Dubai
Mideastern country waves big money
By Matthew Cronin, TennisReporters.net
FROM THE SAP OPEN IN SAN JOSE – Even on his worse day, Andy Roddick is wildly entertaining. He's expressive, he fights, he bombs serves, gasps for returns, spills his guts at the net. His tennis is by no means always pretty, and can sometimes be downright ugly, but he's a scrapper, a real ticket seller and he's the best thing in American tennis now, for better or worse.
Roddick barely survived Australian Chris Guccione 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(5) in the first round and had he lost, the tournament would have really struggled to sell more tickets. Roddick outdrew Blake, who played Tuesday, and the crowd was more enthusiastic. Perhaps that because the match was more tightly contested or perhaps it's because fans are more drawn to Roddick's unquenchable thirst for greatness. He will never achieve the standards of his head coach, Jimmy Connors, or those of John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and even Jim Courier, but he believes he still belongs in the mix. Blake has yet to convince anyone of that yet.
Roddick will play Dubai in two weeks time, skipping Memphis, where he has been a fixture, and of course ignore Las Vegas, where Mayor Oscar Goodman torched him two years ago for not showing. Roddick instead is choosing to join Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Dubai, where they pay out a couple million in guarantees. With Roddick being the biggest US drawing card, that's a killer for Memphis and Las Vegas, but he's also an international star and is in demand abroad. BTW: Scot Andy Murray, who has also played the entire US winter/spring circuit last year, will also play Dubai.
"If I'm going to get a crack at those guys, sometimes that means you have to chase them around and, if that means going to Dubai that means going to Dubai," Roddick said. "Plus, I hear it's nice."
I asked Roddick whether it crossed his mind when he made the decision to play Dubai if he was aware that it would hurt the US events, even given the better field abroad and the larger payout.
"Those points factored into those decision, but I thought it was easier to schedule less weeks and add a wildcard if I needed it. The field is just so strong there and I feel like you have to go after it sometimes and that's what I feel I have to do."
So it is what it is: The oil rich nation is outspending a small- and medium-sized US cities by massive amounts. So what's the ATP to do here? How about a cap on guarantees for similar size tournaments? It's pretty apparent that the Tennis Channel doesn't have the resources to shell out million-dollar guarantees, nor does Memphis, which is played a week before Dubai, but is essentially competing with the tournament because most of the elite players are not going to compete a month straight if you include their mandatory appearances at Indian Wells and Miami.
A cap of guarantees is fair for equal-sized tournaments. Let's say $1.5 million per event and then every tournament at least has a shot at a couple of stars. And please, I don't want to hear about the free market, because Dubai and US tournaments, or Dubai and Latin American tournaments, play by different rules. The Tennis Channel may have some wheeler-dealers and has received a substantial payout from the city of Las Vegas, but it is not backed by a monarchy that has been in power for 175 years. It's simply not free trade in the truest sense. Maybe, if there was some kind of cap, Memphis and Vegas could feature Roddick, Blake and, saints alive, an attractive foreign player like Nadal and Djokovic. But not this year, when the fields are thin.
Back to the tennis, where Roddick played an excellent third-set tiebreak to pull out the win over Guccione, who served and volleyed quite well. Believe it or not, it was one of Roddick's better returning nights as he slapped a lot more balls backs than the score indicates.
"I thought I returned pretty well tonight but your are not going to get a sniff sometimes," said Roddick, who bombed nine aces to 20 from Guccione. "I thought I outplayed him from the start, but I'm just glad I have something to show for it."
Roddick will face Japanese teen sensation Kei Nishikori, who beat Diego Hartfield of Argentina 7-5, 6-3.
Coming off his first ATP title run in Delray Beach last week, Nishikori said he was bit mentally tired, but still was jumping into his ground strokes. He's not a very muscular guy, but he gets his full weight into the ball. Roddick was in the arena to check out the 18-year-old.
"I wanted to play Roddick that's why I won today," Nishikori said. "When I was at 4-3 and saw he was watching, I got so nervous. For two games I couldn't move."
Roddick's take: "It looks like he's just full of confidence and he was ranked 244 in Delray Beach and all of a sudden he's a player. But he has nothing to lose and had confidence on his side so it will be tough."