Andy is 2nd in the race now behind Rafa
Champ wins twice in Peer-less display
By Geoff Calkins (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Monday, February 23, 2009
Andy Roddick took the crystal trophy and prepared to hold it over his head when Radek Stepanek, his vanquished opponent, noticed something odd about the trophy that he had just been given.
"It's for the singles winner," he said.
Stepanek asked for the microphone and -- laughing -- corrected the mix-up.
Which is a good thing, too. If any tennis player has ever deserved the proper trophy for his week of work in Memphis, that player is Roddick this year.
He defeated Stepanek, 7-5, 7-5, Sunday to win the 27th singles title of his career. He won his first title under his new coach, Larry Stefanki. And then, during the post-match press conference, he did something even more impressive.
He stood up for what's good and right. He emphasized that, no, he is not skipping this week's tournament in Dubai because of an injury.
He is skipping it because the United Arab Emirates denied Israel's Shahar Peer a visa for last week's women's event. He is skipping it because some things are more important than winning.
Yes, a tennis player said all that. Whoever would have thought? And whoever would have thought the player would be Roddick?
Nothing against the guy, of course. He's always been entertaining.
It's just, we know who he is. As a country, we have made up our minds about him.
Roddick is the player with the big serve and the pretty girlfriends. He is the hunky Texan who has never quite lived up to expectations.
That's the label, isn't it? And to some extent, if fits.
Roddick has won exactly one Grand Slam event and that was nearly six years ago. He's 2-16 against Roger Federer, 0-7 in Grand Slams.
So we dismiss him as a glamorous also-ran. Which is technically true and also nutty.
Imagine if Roddick played any of the other sports we revere, if he played basketball or football.
The guy is the third-best tennis player in the world. If you're the third-best basketball player in the world, you're Kevin Garnett or Dwyane Wade or Dwight Howard. If you're the third best football player in the world you're, oh, anyone besides Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. You're LaDainian Tomlinson or Ray Lewis. You're an all-timer.
In tennis, if you're third best, you're a loser.
Roddick understands this, too. He fundamentally accepts it.
No, he doesn't like being labeled a failure because he's not as good as Federer, who just happens to be the best of all time.
But he gets it. He knows how his sport works.
"It's definitely not a sob story," he said, and it most certainly isn't.
Roddick is rich beyond reason. He's engaged to swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. He's also -- and this is refreshing -- really trying to get better.
That's why he came to Memphis with a new coach, and in better shape, and with fresh bounce and determination.
He looked good against Stepanek, who had beaten him in the semis in San Jose last week.
Roddick won the points he had to win. He reached some balls he might not have reached in previous years.
And if there was any doubt about his quickness, you should have seen him jump at the chance to clarify the Dubai story after the match was done.
Roddick had initially addressed it Friday, explaining that he had decided not to defend his title because the United Arab Emirates had denied a visa to Peer.
Roddick was the only player to take such a public stance. The organizers of the Dubai tournament tried to blunt it.
"We have heard that Roddick was on the start of a hernia," said Colm McLoughlin, managing director of the tournament sponsor, Dubai Duty Free. "I didn't hear any other report."
Hear this one, then. It comes direct from Roddick.
"I want to clarify something," he said, after Sunday's match. "Obviously, I don't have a hernia or I wouldn't have played today."
"I'd ask you guys to check but it wouldn't be appropriate."
Take that, Mr. McLoughlin. And we thought Roddick's serve was devastating.
So get the man his trophy!
And make sure it's the right one.
When it comes to doing the right thing, Roddick's a runner-up to nobody.