Vamos Mandy :)
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Looking for Andy's forehand with Sarah and Re...
First off, Houston is considered part of the early clay court season and American men play there, as do South Americans and Europeans in pretty high numbers. And they have over the years. The notion that Houston is not a real claycourt event simply because it doesn't happen on the continent of Europe supports a Eurocentric bias I want no part of.
And two, American men take a break after Houston before Rome, much like many Europeans take a break after Wimbledon before coming to the US to play the hardcourt season. Why is it okay for them but not for us?
Double standard is why. Because Americans don't fare well at Roland Garros, we are constantly looking for reasons other than the obvious--we don't like clay, we don't play well on it, and it's really not that big a deal, really.
There is no insult to the sport whatsoever.
And speaking of Roland Garros. Roddick has never missed Roland Garros when he's been eligible to play it. Not even when he had a bum ankle last year which he sustained at a claycourt event leading up to it. The same can't be said for top players from certain countries over the years regarding Wimbledon or the US Open. (In fact, Roddick has got to be on some kind of Slam streak: when WAS the last Slam wherein he didn't compete?)
I understand the need for the American men to take a break after the first quarter of the year and I'll never criticize them for it. Grass and hardcourts have become the bread and butter for many of our top male players and they want to be rested so that they can play the tournaments before Canada and Cincy that many of the European players skip or stay in Europe to play more on the mini clay season that takes place AFTER Wimbledon (something I've never really understood, but again, don't see much discussion or criticism about.)
If Roddick were to go to Europe right now, he'd be there through July (or back to the states after an early-round dismissal in Monte Carlo and then back to Europe for Rome) and then back to to the US to begin the grueling hardcourt summer. When do you suggest he take a break?
That he goes for Rome and Hamburg, two TMS claycourt events that lead up to Roland Garros, is more than enough. In fact, in 2003, the week before Roland Garros Roddick WON St. Poelten against Davydenko in the finals (in straight sets), Roddick's first title that year, and most American "journalists" didn't cover the event and don't include it on Roddick's list of claycourt accomplishments. Now that's an insult, if you ask me.
And there was nothing mysterious about the hamstring he pulled this year in Miami against Murray which kept him out of Houston, an event he's never missed prior. The man was limping like an invalid the day after his Davis Cup match and had the Bryans not closed out the tie, he would NOT have played the fourth rubber in North Carolina.
Rafa skipped Davis Cup with his mysterious foot injury so he could prepare for defending all the points he amassed on clay, but, by and large, he gets a pass because we understand where his priorities lie at this point in his career.
The top American men, who did play Houston, and were eliminated by "real claycourters" much as they would have in Valencia or Monte Carlo, don't deserve such harsh words for choosing to skip one single TMS event in Monte Carlo so early in the European campgaign that it would negatively affect their efforts later in the season.
And there really ought not be THREE TMS events leading up to Roland Garros. Federer and Nadal only play two. Roddick only plays two. What's the difference? What gives?
So you're right, there is no excuse for American men to skip Monte Carlo and other small events before Rome. But there sure is one hulluva damn good explanation for it.