Lazy days of summer? Not for Roddick
July 5, 2005
WIMBLEDON, England · What now for Andy Roddick after he played strong tennis in the Wimbledon final and still couldn't come close to defeating Roger Federer?
For one thing, two weeks off. Then, what appears to be his most aggressive summer schedule since he turned professional. In the past two years, he has played four events leading up to the U.S. Open, going 20-1 in 2003 with three titles, and 16-3 in 2004 with one title.
At this moment, he has signed for five tournaments in five weeks, though that could change if he comes up fatigued from too much play.
He'll return to the court on July 18 at Indianapolis, then to Los Angeles (July 25), Washington (Aug. 1), to the Canadian Open in Montreal (Aug. 8) and Cincinnati (Aug. 15). He'll go from Cincinnati directly to New York to practice that week before the start of the Open (Aug. 29).
Roddick played Indianapolis, Canada, Cincinnati and the Olympics in 2004, and he played Indianapolis, Canada, Cincinnati and Washington in 2003.
There will be a continued emphasis throughout these five U.S. Open Series events on attacking the net and improving his backhand slice volley approach.
In addition, his brother, John, who supplements the coaching of Dean Goldfine, would like to see Roddick improve his down-the-line backhand. It doesn't have to be an explosive, point-producing shot, but more like the backhand up the line you get from David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria.
Nalbandian and Coria hit that shot so deep and so precise that it forces opponents to hit back crosscourt, which is into Roddick's powerful forehand ground stroke.
A half-hour after Federer had taken him apart Sunday afternoon, Roddick was in the locker room, trying to get over feeling bummed. "He needs some space right now," said his brother.
He got it and then he rebounded quickly and was in the post-match interview room, escorted as usual by one of the dour, poker-faced All England Club stewards who sit beside the players as they reply to questions.
Within minutes Roddick was cracking off one-liners. He was asked if he was confident throughout the match that he could find a way to win.
"I don't know about confident," said Roddick. "I think you're trying to find a way to get through. You know, I'm not sitting here telling you I'm down two sets and thinking, `I've got this one.'"
That brought laughter from his audience and also the steward, prompting Roddick to crack, "I finally got a laugh out of you. They're easy," Roddick told the Wimbledon official. "But you ... "
There was so much that was stunning about this match, but when you take the long view it was better tennis than the 2004 final, in which Roddick won a set and went down in four.
He is a better player. He is a stronger player. He is a quicker player. And so is Federer, if that seems possible. You cannot underscore the supreme confidence of the man.
When Roddick produced his only break to go up 3-1 in the second set, Federer looked completely unflustered.
Federer has a way of talking about his achievements that would make anyone who doesn't know him suspect an out-of-control ego. Somehow, when he praises himself, however, it never sounds boastful.
"Even though I was a break down in the second, I know I will have my chances again to break Andy," he said. And there was this: "Today, it seemed like I was playing flawless. Everything was working."
He can also be philosophical.
"In a way, I think this one [third Wimbledon title] will actually take me longer to realize," he said. "I remember during the match and during the [25-minute] rain delay and when I came back on court, I never really felt like I'm actually playing. It's like I'm not living this correctly.
"So, I don't know. It's a very strange feeling I have. It's probably going to take me days, months, weeks, years ... I don't know ... to realize this one."
He was that blown away with the near perfection of his performance.
All the more tangible things in his game were there, too, of course. Roddick, who forces opponents into an average 45 percent unreturned serves on grass, was only at 34 percent against Federer, who returns Roddick's serve better than anyone else. And there was a long list of spectacular Federer shots, from surprise lobs to backhand crosscourt passes that seemed as close to the net as you can get without touching it.
Who knows when they'll next play? Perhaps in the final of the U.S. Open, where it's not clear who is favored by the slower surface.
The fact is they could have played on an ice rink and it wouldn't have mattered. Federer is that good. Roddick can only keep working on his net game and his game from the baseline.
"You have to have both options," he said. "Today I feel like I hit really great approach shots, and I feel like I did force the issue. From a strategic standpoint, last year I left the court thinking, `Oh God, what if I would have done this at this moment or that at that moment?' This year, we went with the game plan and kind of stuck to it. It wasn't enough.
"You can't beat him, I don't think, being a one-dimensional player on a surface besides clay. You have to have a full arsenal."
And even then, it's nearly an impossible task.
Charles Bricker can be reached at email@example.com
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