Don't know what the Augusta Free Press is, but here's a new editorial from it. I feel like I'm reading myself... this is great.
Roddick is no Sampras ... yet
Augusta Free Press
Andy Roddick's run at the 2004 U.S. Open came to an abrupt end on Thursday night in New York City at the hands of a 6-6 Swedish upstart named Joachim Johansson.
The loss is not what is of interest. After all, in today's tennis world, anyone in the top 50 has a shot to beat the best in the world on any given day, and Johansson is ranked 30th in the world, and he is a good player on the verge of being a great player.
What is disturbing is the way that Roddick, ranked second in the world, lost this match.
Roddick lost his cool. He let the intensity of the moment take him out of his own game. He started complaining about line calls, he started rushing his serve, and he started short arming his forehand. In short, he let Johansson dictate points and take him out of his game.
Roddick wants to be number one in the world. He wants to win Grand Slams, and he wants to carry American men's tennis on his back. He may accomplish all those things before his career is complete, but not today. He is in the unenviable position of replacing a legend of the game, Pete Sampras. He is not ready.
Roddick lacks three very important elements of the game that Sampras mastered: emotional maturity, managing the game the way a golfer manages the course, and serving biggest under the greatest pressure.
This is a tricky conversation to have. Roddick is number two in the world for good reason. He has the most powerful serve ever seen in the men's game. He has a huge forehand. He is as athletic as any person you will ever see on a tennis court.
However, that isn't what Roddick wants. He wants to be number one. He wants to be the best of the best ... that means Pete Sampras-like. The only way Roddick is going to over take the likes of Roger Federer (who looks a lot like Sampras at his prime) is if he takes his game to another level.
The emotional battle
Pete was at his best when the pressure was the greatest. He had nerves of steel and an icy glare that wore down his opponents. He was calm under pressure and carried himself with a certain quite assurance.
He was accused of being dull because he didn't show a lot of emotion while playing. I called him "The Ice Man," and watched as he disassembled his challenger's strengths while asserting his game on them. He knew when to attack and when to be patient. Above all, he knew he had to keep his emotions in check.
There is only one player I have ever seen that truly got better when he lost his composure - John McEnroe. It takes a special personality to be able to lose your cool while improving your game. Roddick doesn't possess that personality. Each time Andy showed those emotions, his game would slip. In the second set he double-faulted, and in the final set he tightened up and was broken.
Andy must learn to accept things that he cannot control such as the wind, bad calls and the game on the other side of the net. He needs to focus on what he can control like his serve at crucial moments, and his footwork near the net.
Managing the game
Pete Sampras managed the game better then anyone I had seen play since Jimmy Connors. Pete understood that he could break a match down to a couple of key moments, and it was at that time that Pete would take over.
Andy Roddick has not mastered the ability to sense his opportunity. Andy can manage the game better. He can learn to control the big points better.
The big serve
Andy's serve concerned me more then anything else about the match. As I stated earlier, Andy has the most powerful serve in tennis. However, he is not always able to use it to bail him out when he gets into trouble. That may be the largest difference between him and Pete. Sampras could pull that serve out of his back pocket each time he needed to dial up an easy point. Whenever the pressure mounted the more powerful his serve was.
Pete could dig deep and intimidate opponents with his serve, but most importantly he could bail himself out of trouble, he could finish a match, and he could manage the game better then any tennis player of his era because he could dial up that big serve at will. Time and time again he would find himself down 40-love, and he would dial that serve in and ace his way back to deuce.
Andy has not displayed that ability to place the ball with such effectiveness that it leaves opponents defenseless. Don't get me wrong, it is a blazing serve that went 152mph at the U.S. Open. However, his biggest misses are at the biggest moments.
Andy is young, and he may be able to muster up the iron will that I have witnessed in the past, but he needs to be able to do it with consistency and a serve that rises to the occasion of the most difficult moments on the court.
In the meantime, it’s enough to say that Andy isn't Pete Sampras quite yet