WIMBLEDON: Andy Roddick Wins Again. Window Closed for Another Major or Still a Puncher’s Chance?

Andy Roddick

This is a trick and there’s no way I’m falling for it again. It’s so easy and comfortable with the acceptance that Andy Roddick is never going to win a second major. It stops the disappointment, the frustration, the annoyance of watching his infamous meltdowns.

The problem is this: Roddick is still ranked No. 10. And he’s poised for a deep run at Wimbledon.

This is the place where his game works best; he’s not hitting such pat-a-cake forehands; his serve looks like it used to; the draw sets up perfectly. He beat Victor Hanescu 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 Wednesday to advance to the third round.

Please, no. I’m not going to believe. Rafael Nadal is going to win this thing. If not him, then Novak Djokovic. Not him? Roger Federer. It’s just that Roddick seems to have actually made some adjustments and maybe found his, well, let’s just say that before this, he had castrated his own tennis game.

This is destined for disappointment. He always has some sort of mental breakdown. But just when you finally accept that he’s done,  things line up like this and you wonder if he still has one last puncher’s chance at a major.

So many athletes have one last great run. Pete Sampras was finished, too, when he came back to win one last U.S. Open (beating Roddick along the way, of course). But Sampras’ greatness was unquestioned, and long-lasting. He had more to draw from.

Was Roddick ever great?

Look at his draw. Feliciano Lopez next. Lopez never beats anyone. Gael Monfils, probably, after that? He always raises hopes, loses, and isn’t exactly a power player. Then Andy Murray in the quarters, and the pressure will be huge by then for him to break the British slump.

What am I thinking? When Roddick lost to Federer two years ago in the classic Wimbledon final, it seemed like the beginning of something, but really it was an end. Last year, he lost in the fourth round to some guy named Yen-Hsun Lu 9-7 in the fifth set.

“Fifth set, I don’t believe I can win because he’s (a) better server than me,’’ Lu said after that match, “I don’t believe, but I just tell myself even if I don’t believe, I have to fight.’’

Roddick couldn’t finish that off.

Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert, two of Roddick’s ex-coaches, were asked last week if the window has closed for Roddick to win another major.

“I think for him to win one, he’s going to have to come up with something very, very special now,’’ said Connors, who was on a conference call to promote his World TeamTennis match in New York next month against John McEnroe. “The other guys have kind of gotten on to him a bit. The big serve seems to be coming back a lot more, and the guys are getting the ball in play.

“They’ve figured out a way. Because all the guys have big serves now, and some of them are even bigger than his.’’

So it’s over for Roddick and majors? Window closed?

“Grass is certainly a different animal to where things can happen in a hurry with his serve and his game,’’ Connors said. “It might fit him a little bit. But he’s not 23, 24 years old anymore. . .He’s going to have to come up with something spectacular, and I don’t know if he can do that now.’’

When I asked Gilbert, who was on a conference call about ESPN’s Wimbledon coverage, he also pointed to Roddick’s age, 28. And he talked more specifically about the task:
“I’m not going to say his window’s closed, but it’s just becoming so much more difficult when you’re outside the top four. Monfils, potentially to win the (French) – and he’s ranked 8th in the world –would have had to beat Federer in the quarters, Djokovic in the semis, Nadal in the final. . .

“Obviously, Andy has played great at Wimbledon. He’s probably got a much better chance of doing it there than maybe anywhere else. But to see anybody beat three of those guys in three consecutive matches is a rough ask at the moment.’’

Roddick has been a conflicting case for years. He has been a fixture, for the most part, in the top 10 for nearly a decade. But Americans expect more of their best player than one major title and one brief run at No. 1. So he tends to have more success than any American player, but also to disappoint.

When he lost to Federer two years ago at Wimbledon – the third time he had lost a Wimby final to Federer – the story was about how he had worked on footwork, committed to a more healthy diet, developed a nearly tolerable backhand, started to strategize a little. He should have done it years earlier, but whatever.

Finally listening to someone, Roddick, behind new coach Larry Stefanki, wasn’t just mindlessly gripping and ripping anymore. Then he went too far, starting to loop and push his forehand.

Remember what you thought of Roddick that day he lost to Federer? Since the n, he has made just one major quarterfinal.

But now, he suddenly seems to be driving through his forehand, even changing his stance a little to do it. His serve is controlling play again; he said in a diary entry in USA Today that he had made a slight correction in the way he was gripping the racquet. On top of that, his knuckleball two-handed backhand, which usually kills him, is fine on grass because it doesn’t bounce.

But Murray in the quarters, Nadal in the semis, Federer or Djokovic in the final. The disappointment isn’t there if you just accept it: The window is closed.

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

2 responses to “WIMBLEDON: Andy Roddick Wins Again. Window Closed for Another Major or Still a Puncher’s Chance?

  • Maxshade7

    Roddicks playing well. One shot I think thats missing thats hes going to need is a backhand slice. He needs a shot that will slow down the point and allow him to recover and get back into a point when hes in trouble. When he played Rog in that final he actually used it pretty well…but alas I agree. If the seeds hold Roddicks done at Murray. Roddick served at 80% at Queens club and Murray still thrashed him. Roddick cant win it but maybe he doesnt have to. What if other players lost it? What if Del Potro beats Nadal or Gasquet beats Murray, Soderling beats Nole and someone takes out Roger? I dont think Andy has to come up with something magical, he cant, to his credit hes maxed out his talent but he can hope that something magical and bizarre happens.

  • Steve

    Wimbledon is clearly Roddick’s only remaining chance of a major and not just because it suits his own game.

    There’s very little depth on grass because even though it has been drastically slowed down over the years, the movement is still unique.

    You only had to watch Juan Martin Del Potro’s Bambi’s first steps impression yesterday to see that. Soderling has similar problems.

    What’s this “some guy named Yen Hsun Lu” shit though? Lu has been as high as 33 in the world and as you inadvertently pointed out, has reached the same number of slam quarters in the last 2 years as Roddick has.

    You’re a tennis columnist, most of your readers are tennis fans. They know who Randy Lu, as he amusingly renamed himself, is as I assume you do.

    The “some guy” thing is a pretty cheap device to labour a point that didn’t need labouring.

    Apart from that, another good entry.

    I’m in the 2-20% category personally, because I think Andy can potentially play at a high level into his early 30’s but that’s probably being generous.

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