Re: The Aussie Open ass-kicking, fist-pumping, tan-having thread! (P.S. Anday is Awesome)
Roddick steps up as main foil
By Jake Niall, The Age
January 12, 2006
Page 1 of 2
SUDDENLY, the Australian Open needs Andy Roddick, who will enter the tournament as the second seed behind Roger Federer, a position akin to carrying saddle cloth No.2 alongside Phar Lap.
The untimely withdrawals of Rafael Nadal, who would have been the glamorous upstart second seed, and Marat Safin, hitherto the designated joker in the pack, deprives the men's draw of quality and charisma, and Federer of his most obvious and proven threats.
Roddick has not troubled Federer greatly of late, though this could also be said of Lleyton Hewitt and, indeed, the whole men's tour. But he is highly seeded — and greatly needed — nonetheless, because there are few other recognisable and still potent brands among the men.
Roddick knows where he stands, which is immediately after the daylight that follows Federer. He, quite rightly, and with some modesty, sees himself as one of the rest, a mortal scrapping it out for the right to challenge the supernatural.
"Well, he's made it like that," Roddick said of the Federer hegemony. "It might be Roger versus the field but for the rest of us, it's us versus our first-round opponent. He's obviously made it like that by playing so well over the last couple of years but … I can't stress enough that that really doesn't have a whole lot to do with any of us until we're put in the situation where we're facing him."
Roddick might have talked up Federer's loss yesterday as an encouraging sign for he and his fellow scrappers but he is too astute for that. "This is a tune-up week, this is an exhibition week, and everybody is trying to find their form and make sure that we are ready to go next week. I wouldn't read too much into it," he said of Federer's defeat.
It's to Roddick's advantage that, as the prospective second seed, he would not have to face Federer until the final — a stage he's yet to reach at Melbourne Park, having twice been done in the semis, including last year, when he succumbed to Hewitt's bulldog intensity.
On paper, his chances would appear to have been substantially boosted, too, by the withdrawals, as the betting suggests. Did he see an opening? "I don't know if I think like that," he said yesterday after a sound 6-2, 6-2 victory over emerging French youngster Gael Monfils at Kooyong.
"I don't try to base my prospects for a tournament upon other people pulling out or not pulling out. Obviously, it opens the door for a lot of the other guys but the way I see it is you're going to have to beat the players that are playing best regardless, and I try not to think too much about stuff that's completely out of my control."
Roddick did allow that he was well-prepared for this Australian Open. The back that had troubled him late in the year was "fine", and this had enabled him to work to a Melbourne-specific "game-plan".
Roddick also is playing his customary role as torchbearer for American men's tennis, a job he has to himself this year following the non-appearance of the great Andre Agassi. Less familiar is the sense that Roddick, at 23 and with the likes of Nadal, Monfils and the other French wunderkind, Richard Gasquet, on the scene (and in Nadal's case winning French Opens), has become an elder statesman.
"This is kind of becoming commonplace," Roddick said of questions about the teenage Euro-guns. "I started getting asked about the younger generation and I guess someone forgot to send me the notice that said that I was old."
Little more than two years ago, the A-Rod was voted America's "sexiest athlete alive" by People magazine, garnering him space in the glossy pages occupied by the likes of of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Roddick now takes a slightly lower profile since his celebrity peaked two or so years ago, when he graced magazine covers and hosted TV shows.
But next week, in the absence of a hip young Spanish tyro and a brooding Russian, not to mention Agassi, he's the required rock 'n' roll foil to the Federer concerto.