I didn't know where to put this since we don't have the Articles thread anymore but I just HAD to post this somewhere since it's kinda
so here it is
Mind Sight: Will Andy Roddick Ever Believe in Himself?
By Gerald Schoenewolf | Yahoo! Contributor Network
It seemed to begin after the epic Wimbledon match against Roger Federer in 2009. Andy Roddick went toe to toe with Federer for 77 games before losing 16-14 in the fifth set. It was the longest finals match ever played, not only at Wimbledon but in any major.
That match was a heartbreaker for Roddick. That was the beginning of his downhill slide.
For a few hours, it seemed as if Roddick had truly begun to believe in himself, believed he could beat Federer or anybody else. But that belief cracked in the second set, when he had four set points in the tiebreaker and lost them all. And it cracked again, when he was broken at 14-15 in the final set. In the interview after the match he was asked by a reporter, "What happened out there Andy." His answer: "I lost."
Roddick was not his usual clowning self. This loss was different. When another reporter asked him if he would feel encouraged by his play in this match, his answer was, "No. No. You know … I just keep going. There's not another option."
From a sports psychological standpoint, I was interested in his body language at that interview and afterward. His expression and his hanging head spoke of despair. He kept going after that match, but not at the same level; in the next three years his ranking slowly fell, and Marty Fish (!!!!!!)
replaced him as the No. 1 American tennis player. He was ranked No. 5 in the world following that Wimbledon match; by April of 2012, he had fallen to 34th. It was as though his soul had been sucked out of him by that Wimbledon match, as if he had lost his edge, misplaced his will to win.
To be sure, he has had to deal with an array of injuries in the last three years, including shoulder strains, hamstring pulls, ankle strains, and knee problems. But these injuries were only part of the story. The other part--the most important part--was that he just didn't seem to have any determination anymore. Even when he was healthy, he was being knocked out of tournaments in the early rounds. Since the loss to Federer in that 2009 Wimbledon, he has only won two ATP tournaments.
As a psychoanalyst, I generally focus on the psychological aspects of an athlete's career. When I study Roddick's ups and downs, one fact becomes obvious: Roddick appears to have the skills to beat anyone. He has beaten each of the top four players--Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. Indeed, he has a 5-3 record against Djokovic. He is widely acknowledged to have one of the best serves in tennis and one of the best forehands. His backhand has improved over the years, as has his net game. What separates him from the top players is not his physical game but rather his mental toughness.
The youngest of three brothers, all of who were aspiring tennis players, Roddick eventually surpassed both his brothers and went on to become the world's No. 1 tennis player when he won his only grand slam, the 2003 U.S. Open. At 21, he was the youngest American to end the year ranked No. 1. He credited his coach at the time, Brad Gilbert, with his rise to the top. He may have been right about that.
In my research on athletes, I have found a correlation between an athlete's insecurity and his frequent changes of coaches. When things aren't going as well as one likes, it's easier to blame a coach than to look objectively at oneself. Since he parted with Gilbert, Roddick has changed coaches several times; first there was Dean Goldfine, then his brother John, then Jimmy Connors, and more recently, Larry Stefanki. Whenever he has stopped winning as much as he wanted to, he has hired a new coach. His journey from coach to coach points to the fact that he does not believe in himself. He needs a coach to give him that belief.
Throughout his career he has done well when less is expected of him, and not so well when he enters a match as the top dog. Once he had achieved the No. 1 ranking after the 2003 U.S. Open, he only managed to hold on to the position a few month, losing it at the following Australian Open when Roger Federer took over the position. His upset losses included a second-round defeat at the 2005 Wimbledon to unseeded José Acasuso; a first-round loss to number 70 Gilles Mϋller; and a first-round trouncing at the 2007 French Open to the 33rd-ranked Igor Andreev.
It may well be that Roddick suffers from a younger-brother syndrome. I have often found in my observances of the family lives of athletes that younger siblings learn to be great underdogs. They learn this, first of all, by beating their older siblings. Then they defeat other older players, and the underdog attitude becomes reinforced. They then develop a David vs. Goliath mentality. They are good when they are underdogs, but not so good when they are top dogs. The oldest brother is usually expected to defeat his younger brothers and thereby learns how to play the top dog role. The younger brother, being the youngest, never learns that role. Very often, younger brothers, such as Roddick, retain the younger-brother mentality.
A biography of Roddick notes that his two older brothers were groomed by their parents to be tennis players: "No one gave Andy much though as a potential tennis star. His brothers were convinced their hammy younger sibling would become an actor."
Roddick's prowess at tennis was unexpected and was not really nurtured as it was in his older brothers. Hence, he is still looking for that nurturing.
To believe in himself, Roddick would have to become convinced that he can beat anyone at anytime, whether he is expected to or not expected to. He would have to believe that he has it within him to beat people, rather than needing to get that belief from a coach.
Roddick is now 29 years old. For the most part, tennis players do not play their best after the age of 30. In the few good years he may have left, will he learn to believe in himself? If that belief hasn't been instilled in you during your childhood, it is difficult to find it later on without going through a process such as psychotherapy. But now and again it has happened that a player will reach his prime in later years. Let's hope this is the case with Roddick.
Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst, professor of psychology, and author of 20 books. He is also an avid sports fan.