What Andy Roddick doesn’t seem to get is that the little touches and things that he added to his game are supposed to be there just for variety, and maybe a Plan B. I mean, good for him that he learned how to hit a loopy, soft forehand, figured out how to keep his knuckleball backhand on the court a few shots in a row and developed a slice backhand.
But those things are just the extras, the add-ons. Instead, Roddick has now centered his game around them. He’s like a guy who just built a three-car garage onto his house and then decided to move into the third stall. He has abandoned the main part of his game, the part that made him successful.
In the end, he lost again Friday, in the third round at Wimbledon, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 to Feliciano Lopez, a talented career choker who had never beaten Roddick.
But I guess the path to that run is just filled with too many self-imposed obstacles. Someone asked Roddick, now 28 with one major title, if a loss like this makes even him wonder if he’ll ever win another major.
“Sure, you’re human,’’ he said. “Of course it does. You may never get your favorite job, either. No offense to your current employer. What do you do?
“You keep moving forward until you decide to stop. At this point, I’m not going to decide to stop, so I keep moving forward.’’
So he’s not giving up, which is fine. His former coach, Brad Gilbert, said on ESPN2 that he needs to start getting more aggressive again, which is true.
But the thing is, Roddick’s career has been spent one step behind the times. When he was on top of the game, briefly, in 2003, he was dominant as a big basher. But the versatile games, particularly of Roger Federer, were already moving in. Then, as the game passed Roddick by, he wouldn’t adjust, and looked like a caveman out there. It was good enough to stay in the top 10 for years, but not enough to beat the world’s best players in the biggest moments.
Then, in late 2008, he finally decided to adjust, work on fitness and diet, add the little extras. It led to what might have been his best match, even if it was a loss to Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon final, 16-14 in the fifth set. That could have been a start for him. Instead, he pushed things too far, softened up too much. No one is afraid of him anymore.
After his serve, he is now a dinker.
So it has been a good and long career for Roddick. He gets defensive about people’s frustrations with him, even mentioning again in his Wimbledon diary in USA Today that if he wins just one major, that’s still one more than most people.
But he’s siding with the wrong people in that argument. The people – including me – who think he should have won more majors are disappointed because they believe he had the talent. The ones who think one major was enough believe he just wasn’t that good in the first place.
He needs to think of the loopy forehand as something only to change up paces to make the big forehand look even bigger. He did that in the first two rounds, but in trouble against Lopez, he went back to the garage again, relied entirely on the add-ons. He needs to realize that the new backhand isn’t good enough to win by itself, but only to set up his winning shots.
Roddick needs to move out of the garage and back into the main house. He needs to channel his inner-caveman again.