I don’t dance unless there’s music playing.
That’s what Widdle Andy Woddick said to the chair umpire during his latest itty bitty temper tantrum Monday night in Cincinnati. He had blown the second set, broken his racquet and then, a little later, angrily drilled a ball into the stands.
He didn’t think the chair umpire should have done anything, I guess, much less give him a point penalty, as the rules called for. From there, Roddick fell apart. Time spent on the court during play was sort of the filler for Roddick until he could get on with his main objective, which was to sit down during changeovers and argue some more.
We’ve seen plenty of tantrums from Roddick before. He once spent endless time arguing with a line judge who had said he foot-faulted with his right foot. Actually, it had been his left, as if that mattered.
Roddick is great when he gets ahead. But any speck of trouble, and he falls apart. That’s not new. What is new is this:
Roddick gave up. He stopped running for balls. His comfort wasn’t in winning, but in whining. That was pretty stunning, as he took a 7-6, 4-2 lead over Phillip Kohlschreiber, and then lost 6-7, (7-5), 7-5, 6-1.
He just quit trying. Why? I think it’s starting to hit him that he isn’t going to win another major, that his time as a top tier player has passed, that his career isn’t going to end up the way he expected.
He can’t deal with that, so he finds something else to focus his frustration on.
Roddick has lost eight of his past nine sets and, thanks to the losses and to an injury, is going to fall out of the top 20. He’s about to turn 29. And with all of that, he can allow himself to lose focus so dramatically?
This was defeat. Roddick looks defeated, and not just for a match but for the end of his career. Sure, he whined and lost his head before, but underneath that, he was always still fighting.
In tennis, you must fight to the death. Last week Jo-Wilfried Tsonga just walked off the court in the middle of the second set when he was losing to Novak Djokovic. He said his arm was hurting and that he knew he couldn’t beat Djokovic with one arm.
Probably not, but how could he just give up? That’s not what a tennis player is supposed to do, but it seems to happen so often. In no other sport do you see athletes just patently give up as much as they do in tennis.
Once you give up in a fight, it gets easier and easier to do it again and again. Roddick has too many problems and too little time to become a quitter now.
His tantrums have never been pretty, and always a sign of his weakness and lack of courage. But temper doesn’t automatically signal defeat. In fact, Ryan Harrison, the 19-year old American, has been known to throw a racquet into a tree in anger (French Open qualifying). And while his handlers would like him to get control of himself, he’s using the intensity and passion as energy for the fight.
Roddick is using it for desperate escape.
He doesn’t have time for this messing around anymore. His clock is ticking, and frankly, I think the alarm has already gone off. But if he thinks he has hope at another major, and his preparation time is short going into the U.S. Open, he can’t just give up because a chair umpire correctly punished him.
You should have heard Roddick in this argument. He drilled the ball into the stands, and just kept looking for another angle to argue. He had to be right about something.
“Have some common sense, will you?’’ Roddick said. “You guys getting involved is not what (fans) want to see.’’
“If you don’t hit the ball as hard as you can. . .’’ the chair ump said.
“If I hit the ball as hard as I could, we would not be having (this discussion),’’ Roddick said. “At least, at the bare minimum, let’s deal with the facts.’’
Bingo. It was just like the right foot/left foot argument. Did he hit it as hard as he could into the stands, or just very hard?
“Don’t give me that crap of `You hit the ball as hard as you can,’ ’’ Roddick said, unable to fight Kohlschreiber anymore, and instead choosing to fight a guy who is paid to keep sitting in a chair.
Roddick said something about the dumbest rules in sport, and then the thing about not dancing unless there’s music.
I can just hear Roddick arguing when he was a 6-year old. His teacher tells him that he added 2 plus 2 wrong, and that he just needs to take his No. 2 pencil and re-figure the problem.
“Hold on a minute. This is a No. 3 pencil. What makes you think it’s No. 2? At least know what you’re talking about.’’
OK, fine. It’s a No. 3 pencil.
That doesn’t change the fact: Roddick still can’t add two and two. But at least he would have tried to get the rest of the test right. Silly as he has looked at times, there had always been pride in his fight.