Same old, same old.....I disagree wholeheartedly that Andy's legacy is "tarnished"? By what exactly? Because he's not playing to his potential? It's not like he quit with stomach cramps during a major final. This guy is grasping at straws, trying to make Andy's current predicament more dire than it really is.
What's wrong with RODDICK?
Dubious strategy, coach changes have sunk him in majors
by Bruce Jenkins
February 12, 2006
It's a long road back to Wimbledon for Andy Roddick. He sees things clearly at the All England Club, knowing that only Roger Federer is his superior, and there's no disgrace in that. The rest of the tour has found him slipping into cracks generally reserved for the mediocre. If he continues his recent slide, the Wimbledon seedings might reflect a once-mercurial player in decline.
The road will take Roddick through the French Open, where he will undoubtedly take an incomprehensible loss, and the rest of a clay-court circuit that generally confounds American players. It will also take him through San Jose, site of the SAP Open beginning Monday at HP Pavilion, and that will be the perfect setting to take stock of his affairs.
When he last passed through San Jose, a year ago, Roddick was winning the tournament for the second straight time. Although Federer wasn't there, the rest of the field seemed well removed from his league. Roddick looked very much like the player who stormed through the 2003 U.S. Open and represented such glowing hopes for U.S. tennis.
Since then -- and to hear some tell it, since Roddick broke ties with his Marin-based coach, Brad Gilbert -- Roddick has taken a desultory path through the majors. He lost in consecutive years to Joachim Johansson and Gilles Muller at the U.S. Open. He fell to Jose Acasuso at last year's French. The dawning of '06 brought a stunning loss to Marcos Baghdatis at the Australian Open, and while Baghdatis was no fluke, blasting his way to the final against Federer, Roddick was pegged to handle the world's 54th-ranked player.
People cut Roddick a ton of slack in recent months, always calling up those fond championship memories at Arthur Ashe Stadium, but now bring a flood of evidence that Roddick's strategy is weak and ill-founded. He struck volleys maybe three times a year during his blast-away teens, and while he finally realized that he has the wingspan and athletic ability to do damage at the net, he's paying the price for all those years of baseline monotony.
Traditionally, Roddick was able to destroy players with his inside-out forehand, one of the most punishing shots in tennis. Baghdatis, a marvel of anticipation and panache, consistently returned them with bullet backhand winners down the line. After witnessing that, and other errors of judgment, former tour star Mats Wilander observed that Roddick "didn't coach himself very well in this match" and said he had gone from a "great" player to "totally ordinary."
Roddick's one-year experiment with coach Dean Goldfine was a complete bust. In a move that smacked of desperation, Roddick replaced Goldfine this week with his own brother, John Roddick, a former collegiate All-American who had been training with junior players. While Federer continues to dominate (and cultivate his image, hiring the massive IMG agency to draw endorsements after years of quaint dependence on a four-person management team), Roddick is fast approaching a crossroads. He'll have tough competition in San Jose, including Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and James Blake, but another spirited run would do wonders for his confidence.
We won't be seeing the women's side of tennis at the SAP, but a few updates might help summon the tennis mood. Martina Hingis, for instance, is making one of sports' most fascinating comebacks in recent years.
Since virtually everyone in the women's game seems to be hurt, sick, depressed or out of shape, Hingis' story might require an asterisk or two. There was a telling moment, however, in Tokyo last weekend. Maria Sharapova, playing Hingis for the first time, found herself run off the court in little more than an hour, 6-3, 6-1.
Whether Hingis is playing at a major-title level remains to be seen (she was routed by Elena Dementieva in the Tokyo final), but here's the point: Sharapova just hasn't seen that type of opponent, nor has anyone else on the tour in recent years. Hingis is a thinker, a purveyor of angles and percentages. It's not in her mind-set to simply crush every ball. At the time of her retirement, she felt humbled and embarrassed by the surge of power in women's tennis, particularly as delivered by Venus and Serena Williams. Things are different now. The Williamses are highly vulnerable; dozens of players can match their pace, and Hingis showed plenty of power in her Australian Open exchanges with U.S. Open champ Kim Clijsters. Nobody out there scares Hingis, and it's a marvelous development to see her back in the mix.
Sadly, the Williamses are becoming a bit of a joke in the catty world of tour gossip. Until they get themselves healthy and dedicated, they will be viewed as vulnerable and eminently beatable. Never underestimate their will; just recall what it took to get them from a Southern California ghetto to the Grand Slam winner's circle, time after time. It's just that they have become touched by comfort and celebrity. Why not open a fashion-design business, if you're Venus? Why not accept an acting role in Hollywood, if you're Serena? In terms of worldliness, humor and style, they're miles ahead of everyone else on tour.
But how much does that matter to Nicole Vaidisova or Francesca Schiavone, to say nothing of such luminaries as Clijsters and Amelie Mauresmo, who just captured her first major at the Australian? Serena was so out of shape in Melbourne, huffing and puffing her way through the few matches she played, observers said it was almost embarrassing to watch. Serena hasn't been completely healthy since her knee surgery, and her mini-careers simply leave no time for diligent practice. Just how is she supposed to get back in form?
The nicest moment at the Australian was the sight of Mauresmo, so often the tormented loser, holding up the trophy. "I have a special bottle of wine I kept for my first Grand Slam title," she said. "It's at home waiting for me very quietly in the dark at the right temperature."
It was a tarnished victory, Mauresmo having benefited from the mid-match retirements of Michaella Krajicek, Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne , but the moment seemed spectacularly appropriate. If only Henin-Hardenne had been received so warmly.
Through the years, we've known Henin-Hardenne as an on-court scrapper and a person willing to fight through pain, whether it was her epic semifinal against Jennifer Capriati at the 2003 U.S. Open or her comeback from injuries and a lengthy viral infection. Suddenly, right there in the second set of the final against Mauresmo, she was quitting. At a time when nothing appeared to be seriously wrong, Henin-Hardenne (losing 1-6, 0-2) walked to the net and told Mauresmo she could not continue.
Later, explaining that she was experiencing intense stomach pain and tired legs, Henin-Hardenne made her biggest mistake. "I wanted to try," she said at her news conference. "When you see it's not working, it's the only way to go out. There's no reason to keep playing."
What? There were countless reasons. For one thing, the long-starved Mauresmo deserved the distinction of walking to the net and waving to the crowd with a complete triumph in hand. For another, Mauresmo might have experienced one of her mental walkabouts and given the match away. More than anything, though, elite tennis players don't give up so easily.
Calling the withdrawal "unprofessional," the venerable Bud Collins wrote in the Boston Globe, "She walked out -- quit! -- on the two legs that had been pumping furiously only minutes before ... leaving a bad taste and a blot on the game."
Former tour player Pam Shriver, generally sympathetic to the players' side, wrote on ESPN.com, "A major final is sacred. Short of any type of major injury, you keep going. To see her call it was stunning to me. My respect level disintegrated, especially when I heard her rationale. Maybe in two months we'll know something more. But for the moment, I think Henin's reputation is tarnished forever."
Andy Roddick can relate to that, although he'd prefer that you eliminate the "forever." His road starts in San Jose, and there will be many obstacles along the way.