I wish Andy would give us an update on his Facebook. This recurring injury problem is making me nervous.
On Tennis: U.S. Open crucial for inconsistent Roddick
By RAVI UBHA
It's been a strange season for Andy Roddick.
He ended his jinx against Roger Federer and took out the mercurial pair of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in back-to-back matches at the Dubai Tennis Championships in the winter, boosting hopes the big-serving Austin, Texas, resident could return to the top four -- and stay there.
At the same time, Roddick exited in the third round at the Australian Open and second round at Wimbledon, his four-set defeat to unpredictable Serb Janko Tipsarevic at the All England Club downright ugly: a few second-serve returns barely made the net and left his support camp gasping in frustration. To remind, Roddick hasn't reached a Grand Slam semifinal since the 2007 Australian Open.
The next two months will thus be crucial, with Flushing Meadows his last real shot at glory because Roddick is electing not to compete at next month's Beijing Olympics.
Not a good start so far.
Roddick pulled out of a World Team Tennis encounter in St. Louis over the weekend because of the shoulder injury that sidelined him at the French Open and probably hindered his play a tad at Wimbledon.
The immediate prognosis is less than promising.
"Due to the same injury I've been rehabbing since mid May, I'm seeing a specialist and have been advised not to travel," Roddick wrote on his Web site.
Roddick wasn't scheduled to participate at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships that start Monday, although he's penciled in to compete four consecutive weeks beginning with the Canadian Masters in Toronto on July 21, the other stops being Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Expect a withdrawal or two along the way.
Olympics not right fit for Roddick, many other stars
By Douglas Robson, Special for USA TODAY
Former Olympian Andy Roddick again will be carrying the torch for the USA this summer. But instead of Beijing, he'll be propping up the Olympus US Open Series with his high-profile presence.
Since tennis was reinstated as a medal sport in 1988, the Summer Games have played havoc with the already-overloaded tennis calendar. This year a number of players are opting out of the chance to reap glory for their country to focus on the U.S. Open and heal their bodies. Others are avoiding it out of ennui.
"I've already done the whole thing," said Mardy Fish, who nabbed a silver in singles four years ago at Athens but will bypass a shot at another medal.
Roddick's reason stems from his desire to be match-tough and fresh when he hits Flushing Meadows, the site of the U.S. Open, his only Grand Slam title (2003).
"It was tough," the sixth-ranked Roddick said of his decision a few months back. "Thankfully, I've gotten to go through the Olympic experience once, which I think is huge for any athlete."
New York is priority
Roddick, who lost in the third round at Athens and followed that with a quarterfinal exit at the Open, knows the price cross-continental travel can exact. This summer is no different, with the top men required to play back-to-back Masters events in Toronto and Cincinnati.
"This time I decided that (New York) was the priority," the cannon-serving Texan said.
Roddick and No. 41 Fish aren't alone. Other big names taking an Olympic pass include No. 15 Richard Gasquet of France and No. 45 Tommy Haas of Germany. Haas won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Nor are the Davis Cup teammates the only Americans. No. 71 Ashley Harkleroad decided to turn down an Olympic berth to improve her ranking after missing several tournaments this spring following surgery to remove one of her ovaries.
"I need to get some matches under my belt and get my ranking up," says the 23-year-old Georgia native, who kicks off her summer campaign this week at the Bank of the West Classic in Palo Alto, Calif. "I also didn't really grow up watching tennis in the Olympics, so I never dreamed about being in it."
Top female players who also opted out of Beijing include No. 8 Anna Chakvetadze, former No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo and 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli.
Mauresmo, the 2004 silver medalist, has been beset with injuries this year, and her ranking has fallen outside the top 30.
"As I was not picked to play singles, and because I need to preserve myself from physical problems, I have decided not to take part in the Olympics to concentrate on getting ready for the U.S. Open," the Frenchwoman said on her website when she announced the decision.
Bartoli, 23, also has struggled with injury and fatigue, but she has also had a contentious relationship with French tennis authorities, often opting out of Fed Cup.
Gasquet has been the object of severe criticism at home, particularly after he declined to play during France's Davis Cup loss to the USA in April.
Others, such as 2007 U.S. Open semifinalist Chakvetadze, might need a mental break. After finishing last year ranked No. 6, the Russian has had a subpar season and admitted suffering from psychological stress after an armed robbery at her Moscow home in December.
"Anna has no plans to compete in Beijing because her current form is far from ideal," Chakvetadze's mother told the Allsport news agency.
Ideal or not, top-ranked Roger Federer remains gung-ho on Beijing.
"I had two great experiences, but I completely understand (Roddick's) choice, I think, and everybody should," said Federer, who lost the bronze medal match in Sydney and crashed out of the second round in Athens to Tomas Berdych after serving as Switzerland's flag-bearer during the opening ceremonies. "The U.S. Open, for him, seems to be the biggest thing for him to focus on."
Some choices reflect the shifting priorities of globetrotting athletes. Lindsay Davenport can relate. She's been in both camps.
Seen both sides
Davenport has called winning the gold in singles at the 1996 Atlanta Games her "coming-out" moment, and a career highlight. Eight years later she skipped the 2004 Athens Games to concentrate on winning the U.S. Open. It almost paid off, but a groin injury contributed to a semifinal loss to eventual winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.
"I totally respect that," she said of players who choose to stick close to home and prepare for New York. "I did that in 2004. It was a conscious decision to put all my eggs into one basket and go for the U.S. Open."
Davenport, 32, says a big motivation to return to the circuit last year after giving birth to a baby boy was one more shot at a medal.
"Sometimes something has to sacrifice, and I think the players that are skipping it have participated in an Olympics before," says the three-time major champ. "They're at different stages of their career, and at different stages there are different priorities."
Whether sponsors and tournaments are applying pressure to stay home, particularly on Americans, is another possible motivation that players rarely discuss. Fish says he hasn't felt any extra cajoling to play the six weeks of Series events that conclude in New York. He admits that there are other considerations.
"Let's be honest: There are 13 tournaments with more money and more points," he said of the nine Masters events and four majors. "Hopefully, no one questions anyone's loyalty."
Fish is likewise keen to sweat it out at places like Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., the sites of some of his best tennis so far.
"I love the smokin' hot weather," he says. "These are all my favorite events."
Fish, 26, understands when people question his sanity for skipping the Olympics. He and Roddick shared a suite in the athletes' village in Athens and had a ball meeting athletes of all stripes from around the world. Fish likens his decision to NBA players who once wouldn't have dreamed of missing out on a USA team nomination but now sometimes prefer to sit on the sidelines.
"Before I was like, 'How can they turn that down, playing for your country, the Olympics, the coolest thing ever?' " says Fish, citing the pressure, pollution and multiple time zones that a stop in Beijing would entail. "Now I understand exactly how they feel."
And like Roddick, he wants to give himself the best chance at home on a surface that brings out the best in his game.
"Andy wants to win Slams, and I desperately want to do well at the Open," says Fish, who has never gone past the second round.
Roddick struck a similar note.
"Switching time zones for two weeks, and then come back and have four days, and then you're starting the U.S. Open?" he said. "I don't know if that was the best preparation."