Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts

Greetings Roddick watchers, I am back from stuffing myself silly over the Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends. I hope my fellow Americans had just as pleasant a holiday as I did. Lots of little tidbits about the ARod came through while I was out so let's play catch-up, shall we?

Readers over at Sports Illustrated "Caption This: Reader Responses" wrote in their funny captions of Andy and a ballgirl grabbing his man boobs. Ok, maybe some of the captions aren't all that funny but the picture still cracks me up.

***
How high, Andy?

Inside Tennis has an article about how tennis stars deal with doubt and uncertainty, adding this blurb by Andy:
ANDY RODDICK RESETTING THE BAR

"When you set the bar high, anything less than that is going to be criticized. I understand that. It's the same in every other sport. If the San Antonio Spurs lose next year in the NBA Conference Finals, people are going to be down on them. That's the way it works. It doesn't bother me because I know I'm putting in the work and it's nothing that I've done wrong. I'm in the mix. I'm plenty motivated. A lot of people don't realize how tough it is to stay close to the top for three or four years. They don't see the work we put in. I've been in the process this year of trying to become a better player even if that meant taking a couple steps back to take some steps forward. I'm making progress."

That last line about taking a step back to take a step forward gives me a lot of hope for 2006. 2004 and 2005 were full of growing pains for Andy. He is working on improving his game and of course that is not going to happen overnight. It took Pete Sampras three years to win his second slam after winning the first and I'm sure that after this period of adjustment 2006 will show some great results for Roddick.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comREDEMPTION DOES NOT HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON. The results of all the hard work Team Roddick has been doing should finally materialize in 2006.

***
My So-Called Crummy Year

Speaking of Andy's so-called crummy year, has anyone else noticed that many of the year-end tennis magazines have nothing to do with Roger Federer's fantastic run or Rafael Nadal's breakout year but everything to do with Andy missing his mojo? Heh. Don't tell me that Andy Roddick doesn't sell magazines.

***
He's not dead yet

Working the same "2005: Maximum Suckage"-wavelength (what can I say? It's the end of the season), ESPN had a great article denouncing this belief by the man himself (you can read the entire article below in the News section):
A bad year? Roddick says that's 'a stretch'

It's not easy being Andy Roddick.

No, really, it's not.

One would figure that a player blessed with abundant talent and charisma, who went 59-14 in 2005 and won multiple titles while maintaining a No. 3 world ranking would be toasted as a success from Shanghai to Savannah.

But when you're 23 and carrying the flag on the men's tennis circuit, which is starving for its once-dominant tennis power to win his first Grand Slam victory since his precocious U.S. Open win in 2003, the expectations for success are different.

"It's weird, you know?" Roddick told ESPN.com at the recent BNP Paribas Masters. "Because when I'm 10, 11, 12 years old, I'm basically hoping I'm going to get a college scholarship one day. If someone would have told me then, 'You're [third] in the world, you've won five titles on every surface on the planet and it's a down year,' I would have been like, 'Well, geez, I'll sign up for that right now.'"

Roddick, who retreats to his lakefront home in Austin, Texas, in the rare moments he's not on the road, said it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's behind the talk that 2005 has been a subpar year for him.

"To classify it as a bad year, I mean, I think that's a bit of a stretch. I would have loved to have done better in certain matches, and at times, I was maybe a little inconsistent, but, you know, if being No. 3 in the world and winning five titles is a bad year, I really look forward to a good one.

"I think the thing that made it a bad year was losing in first round at the U.S. Open [in three straight tiebreakers to Luxembourg lefty Gilles Muller]. That's it pretty much. But I don't base my year on one unfortunate night where I don't feel like I played well."

He followed up that disappointment with a clutch five-set win in a Davis Cup relegation-round match in late September against Belgium's pesky Olivier Rochus that ensured the Americans a spot in the 16-country World Group for 2006.

"That was huge for him because of the disappointing results at the Open," said coach Dean Goldfine, who Roddick hired after his split with former coach Brad Gilbert last December. "To win it the way he won it, a four-and-a-half-hour match, on clay, showed a lot about him and his character. It was a big confidence-booster for him." [. . .]

Goldfine, for one, expects great things in the coming year, and beyond.

"My goal with Andy is to get him to be the best player he can possibly be," Goldfine said. "With the type of athlete that he is, the sky's the limit for him if he really continues to work on all phases of his game.

"He's volleying much better and understanding the net game more, but sometimes he drifts a little too far beyond the baseline, and he needs to make an effort to hit the ball early and take time way from guys, especially the top players. That's what Federer does so well."

A veteran of the men's tour and linchpin of the American Davis Cup effort despite his relative youth, Roddick said he'll use the knowledge from a challenging 2005 season to his advantage as he moves forward.

"You know, this year's made me hungrier," Roddick said. "I think more than anything, I've had to learn how to play for myself. It's a little tough at times. But it's just taught me a lot more about myself, and it's given me a bigger sense of perspective."


Image hosted by Photobucket.comIT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN. Or Andy Roddick. Or a tree frog that drives Lexus cars.

Not that anybody asked, but what does Matt Cronin over at TennisReporters.com think of Andy's year?
How many times is Roddick going to attempt to snow someone and say he had a good year because he won five mid-sized titles and reached the Wimbledon final. Yes, that's a great year for Robby Ginepri, Mardy Fish or Taylor Dent, but not for America's main man. Roddick went backwards in results and confidence, but we will give him and coach Dean Goldfine this: His game does look more well rounded now.

As Roddick himself says, Sometimes you've got to take a step back to move forward. I believe that everything will fall into place soon and that his and our patience will soon be rewarded.

***
Are we done walking down the 2005 nightmare lane yet?

No, we're not done. You're going to sit there and read all the year-end "reviews" until you barf like Andy Murray.

There's another year-end review by Steve Tignor over here on Tennis.com's site. You can read the full article by clicking on the link here or below in the News section. This is his favorite Roddick-related memory of 2005:
Andy Roddick match, Centre Court, Wimbledon. One group of girls: "We love you Andy!" Another group, on the opposite side of the stadium: "We love you, too!" First group: "We said it first, Andy!"

Isn't it great to hear about fans like this? He's such an unpopular fella, really.

The ATP site is also posting comments from readers about their most memorable tennis moment from 2005. Somebody wrote in with this:
A surely remarkable moment was at the TMS Rome when Andy Roddick corrected the referee’s decision at his own match ball to his own disadvantage. After that, he lost the match. This is surely not an everyday action. -- Livio Marelli, Switzerland

Yes, that moment was so memorable I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Indeed, I remember the accolades Roddick received when the sports world got word of Andy's magnaminous gesture. It even made my local news, woot! This small but significant act of sportsmanship is also making its way onto several 'best moments in sports' lists across the country. Here's more where Roddick is celebrated:
From the International Herald Tribune's "Athletes Who Should be Celebrated":

But helping the officials get it right does not always reward the do-gooder. In May, in the Round of 16 of a tennis tournament in Rome, Andy Roddick had match point against Fernando Verdasco of Spain. Verdasco made what appeared to be a double fault, and the chair umpire, Fergus Murphy, began announcing Roddick's victory, but as the two competitor s headed toward the net for the obligatory handshake, Roddick glanced at the ball mark on the clay and realized that Verdasco's second serve had actually been in, not out.

He corrected the call himself, returned to the baseline and ended up losing the match in three sets. "Maybe I should have stood on the mark," Roddick joked afterward.

How much better, from this Thanksgiving Day perspective, that he stood on principle.

Whew. I needed a way to finally end this blog entry and what better way to do it than on a positive note like this.

Monday, November 21, 2005

David Slays Goliath (and gives thanks to Andy)

TV ALERT! James Blake's interview with "60 Minutes" is airing this Sunday, Nov. 27th. According to Tennis Week Andy was interviewed as well:

"Wallace interviewed Blake and teammate Andy Roddick in Belgium during the United States' Davis Cup World Group Playoff tie against host Belgium."


***
Not much news to report on the Roddick front. People are still talking about the Shanghai Masters final where David Nalbandian--Andy's replacement after he pulled out with a bad back--finally put an end to Roger Federer's brilliant 24-final run on Sunday, knocking the Swiss down and out in a thrilling five-setter 6-7 (4-7), 6-7 (11-13), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) in four hours, 33 minutes.

From Bloomberg News:
David Nalbandian rallied from two sets down, then beat Roger Federer in a fifth-set tiebreak to win the Masters Cup on Sunday and snap the two-time defending champion's 24-match victory streak in finals.

Nalbandian, playing in the tournament because Andy Roddick pulled out, won 6-7 (4-7), 6-7 (11-13), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) in four hours, 33 minutes. He blew a 4-0 lead in the final set before breaking Federer at 5-6 to force the tiebreak. Nalbandian won $1.4 million.

The Argentine stopped Federer's 35-match win streak and prevented the Swiss from tying John McEnroe's record for the best winning percentage in a single season in the open era. Federer, slowed by an ankle injury, ended 2005 at 81-4; McEnroe was 82-3 in 1984.

Nalbandian was getting ready for a fishing trip before being called in to take Roddick's place. I don't think he minded terribly that his vacation was put on hold. You can't catch a bigger fish than Roger Federer these days. David also remembered to thank Andy Roddick, whose back injury allowed him to enter the elite eight-man tournament in Shanghai.

"I need to thank him," said the Argentine, "because if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here."

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSWEET DREAMS. Thank you, Shanghai! Thank you, Mom! Thank you, injured-but-can-still-play-in-exos Andy!

Now I know some of you are probably thinking, "Damn! Damn! DAMN! If only..." right about now, perhaps bemoaning yet another missed golden opportunity for Andy. But that would be unfair because I don't think that you can replace one player for another and expect the exact same linear end results. Opponents would be dealing with a different player, a different personality, a different atmosphere, along with a myriad other yin-yang intangibles that can make or break each match. Yes, if only Andy hadn't injured himself at the Paris Masters then he might've won Paris, maybe even Shanghai as well. But even if Andy weren't injured, none of these scenarios would've been a definitive outcome. Fate and luck have their place in sports, and it simply was not Andy's time, just as it was not Federer's time to break a couple dozen more records this past Sunday evening.

However, I do think that Andy's quota of bad-luck combined with lousy timing has been sufficiently fulfilled for 2005 so here's hoping that Lady Luck will cut him some slack next year and let the pendulum swing his way for once.

***
It Pays To Be Photogenic

If you haven't already picked it up, Tennis magazine has a special Year in Pictures issue out on stands now and there are several nice ones of Andy in it. I didn't count, but I think he has more pictures in the yearbook than anybody else. Tee hee! Figures.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comDORKS R US. It's safe to say that this won't be one of the yearbook photos.

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I Swear, If I Ever Hear the Word Mojo Again...

There was a little blurb about Andy and his endorsement deals in last month's ACE magazine, which chronicled tennis stars and their advertisements/sponsors. Andy is second on the list of celebrity ad whores, after the King of Endorsements himself, Andre Agassi. Wouldn't it be great if one day Andy could transcended tennis the way Andre Agassi does? I give it another ten years before the whole mojo-thing finally wears off...

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Vote for Andy, Because He Fell on His Ass and It Was Funny

Vote for Andy's face-splattering volley as "Play of the Year" over at the ATP site and win yourself something cool (whatever that cool thing may be; so long as Andy comes in first, that's all that really matters, right? ;) ).

***
And for my final parting shot before I leave for the Thanksgiving holiday, I uploaded a four-minute video here of highlights from Andy's Paris Masters matches with David Ferrer and Ivan Ljubicic. If you didn't see any of his matches in Paris, then perhaps the vision of Andy getting bear-hugged on the floor by the trainer will hold you over until I decide to make another video at some point.

Have a great holiday week everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Rabbit Season

For those of you who may be fretting over the fact that Roger Federer made this year's Sexiest Man Alive list in People magazine but not Andy: Andy already made the list back in 2003 and you can view his photo profile here.

***
A sports gossip website called Dead Spin has this hilarious tidbit on Andy's irrational fear of cute fuzzy creatures that go hop in the night. If this story is true, then I think everybody should show up at his matches dressed as the Easter Bunny. Then again, if this rabbit looked anything like the one in Donnie Darko then who could blame him for being less than enthused by a close encounter with a giant rabbit?

Athlete Run-Ins: Roddick's Rabbit Phobia

After a pretty darned controversial and debated story about Tim Duncan yesterday, we’ve got a nice amusing, safe one today, about tennis star Andy Roddick and his unusual, somewhat inexplicable fear. This one comes from Steve in Houston:

Andy Roddick, in Houston for the Davis Cup in 2002, then at least 18 or 19, was forced to attend an Easter morning brunch at the St. Regis Hotel, where the players were sequestered. Seems that the hotel had hired a bunch of mascots in training to wear various costumes of loveable Easter icons to wander around the brunch, giving gifts to the kiddies (no recollection of a Jesus type character working the room, but that would have been perfect).

Seems Andy (who was fresh off of his allegedly celibate fling with THE Jessica Simpson and had moved on to another, hotter woman named Jessica Simpson, whom no doubt put out) is petrified of the Easter Bunny. Not just the munchkin in the costume, apparently. He’s Easter Bunny-phobic, in general. He got all sorts of agitated when he saw the bunny frolicking about. To the point of asking us to make sure we kept the bunny far, far away from him. And acting all freaky about it. This show of manliness no doubt concerned Jessica v.2, but she then remembered that Andy was 19, stupid and loaded, and all was well, once again.

The mental image of Roddick cowering from the Easter Bunny is going to stick with us, we think. By the way, much to our surprise, there doesn’t appear to be an official name for the fear of rabbits. (We checked.)

(Update: There is a word for the fear of rabbits. We knew it! It’s “Leporiphobia;” supposedly it was once considered unlucky to have rabbits aboard ships. Which makes sense, we guess.)

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BUNNY PHOBIA.
The only rabbit Roddick
might fear most is one
named Roger.





***
Curious about the Jessica Simpson link? Here's what Andy had to say about it when he was asked at the 2001 US Open:
2001 US OPEN

Q. Forget the match, we want to hear about Jessica Simpson.

ANDY RODDICK: Thanks, I'll squash this right now. Maybe Bob [Bryan] was joking or something.I wish. You know, I feel bad because she probably gets this all the time and I never do. (Laughter). No, I would just like to squash this right now. I've never talked to her. I never met her. You know, I don't know what else to say.

Q. Bob thinks you're stalking her?

ANDY RODDICK: I guess. I mean, maybe this was Bob's idea of a joke, you know. I don't know.

Q. Would you like to?

ANDY RODDICK: (Laughing). Sure. I mean, no, I like -- you know, you guys are laughing at me. No, I mean it would be great to meet her. I don't know, it's been a serious distraction. I would just love to squash it right now because it's -- there's no dice, I don't think.

Something else Andy should work on for 2006: Learn how to lie more convincingly.

The Dallas Morning News reports on yet another charity exo Roddick will be attending:
Roddick to play at Texas Tennis Shootout
2003 U.S. Open champ coming to Frisco for exhibition match


Andy Roddick and Taylor Dent are coming to the area to spread a little Christmas tennis cheer.

Roddick and Dent's exhibition match will headline the Texas Tennis Shootout, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco. Also included are three shootout tiebreakers: one pitting area tennis professionals against each other, another spotlighting wheelchair athletes, and a third featuring players from Texas and Texas A&M.

A percentage of all ticket sales for the Shootout will be distributed to area clubs to help promote tennis locally.

Tickets for the event, produced by PROLINK Sports and Entertainment, go on sale at noon Tuesday and can be purchased by calling 214-467-8277. Beginning 9 a.m. Nov. 25, tickets will be available online at tickets.com.

Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, last played in the area three years ago against Pete Sampras in a sold-out exhibition at Moody Coliseum. Dent has played in the USTA Challenger at T Bar M Racquet Club.

Let's avoid the strip tennis shenanigans, boys. It's Christmas.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

King of Hearts

More about Andy's sunglasses deal with Lacoste from the Austin Business Journal:
The future's so bright: Roddick signs sunglass deal

Tennis star Andy Roddick of Austin will endorse Lacoste sunglasses for the next four years in a deal worth $750,000 to $1 million.

Lacoste signed Roddick to a five-year, $25 million apparel deal in April after he bolted from Reebok International Ltd. (NYSE: RBK), based in Canton, Mass.

Lacoste also makes sunglasses. When the company heard Roddick was talking to rivals about an eyewear deal, Lacoste quickly secured his endorsement of its line.

Roddick won't wear Lacoste sunglasses during competition. Instead, he will make at least one appearance for the French company, which plans a marketing campaign around his endorsement.

"Andy represents in global sports a kind of America blue chip, apple pie meets Chevrolet type," says his agent, Ken Meyerson of SFX Sports Group Inc. "International brands want to align themselves with that."

Roddick has become something of a walking billboard. Lacoste outfits his eyewear and apparel, and French company Babolat supplies his rackets and tennis shoes. Roddick also endorses Lexus, a division of Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), and American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP).

I like the part that says that Andy has become a walking billboard. It's a whole lot better than becoming a walking "Kick Me" sign, if you ask me.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSPACE FOR RENT. Ads are good. Slams are better.

***
Andy Roddick: King of Hearts

Perusing last month's ACE magazine (yes, I'm behind on my reading), I found this complimentary letter about Roddick in the letters section that must be shared here:
As an American subscriber, I thoroughly enjoyed your special Wimbledon coverage in the August issue. The daily breakdown, review, and recap was terrific, and the sidebar snippets of everyday quotes and happenings were insightful. Your photos are always great. Keep up the good work!

I was especially pleased to see so many memorable and funny quotes being attributed to Andy Roddick. This young man just oozes charisma and charm and his personality shines through in some of the best post-match conferences given. Sometimes his dark side emerges in the heat of the moment during matches but that's what makes him such an interesting character -- a bit of Jekyll and Hyde. He livens up Wimbledon every year he plays.

He's had some bad luck in the past few years but I will always be cheering for him. He is the everyman underdog. Roger Federer may be the King of Wimbledon for now, but Andy Roddick is the King of Hearts.

Oh my, "King of Hearts"! Finally. A decent replacement for Princess Diana. And I shall name my firstborn: Charlemagne! (which was the letter writer's unusual name)

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DEAL ME IN. Roger Federer may
be the King of Wimbledon but
Andy Roddick is the King of Hearts.






***
Will Strip for Tennis

Cleaning out the old rag mag table some more, I found this little tidbit hidden in an old issue of People magazine:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

I'm guessing Andy won't be playing strip tennis against Roger Federer any time soon, otherwise he'd be stripped down to his skivvies in no time. And let's just pray that he doesn't get the idea to try this game out against the likes of Taylor Dent anytime soon, either.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Roger Federer and The Seven Dwarfs

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
HEADS UP, UK FANS. Andy Roddick will be the December 2005 cover boy for Britain's ACE magazine.

***
Welcome to the No Masters Cup. With Rafael Nadal's and Andre Agassi's eleventh-hour withdrawals from Shanghai this week, the TMC has sadly managed to out-circus itself. Roger Federer is now the only remaining true Master whom the fans (and Shanghai promoters) will be pinning all their hopes on. He is aware of the burden that he carries and has stated that the promoters' anger towards the players, in particular Andre Agassi, is understandable.

The media pounced on this latest blow to TMC Shanghai and they haven't let go in the days since. Here's a good article from the Times Online with some choice Roddick-related quotes:
A wager was struck between two writers yesterday, in which the one who has travelled the circuit for 40 years invested in his belief that, at the present degenerative rate, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick will not be competing at the top of the game in five years. If his forecast bears fruit, then the sport really will have torn itself apart from the inside. [. . .]

It is only four years ago that Pat Rafter, of Australia, whose game was based on flowing athleticism, gave up the unequal struggle at the age of 28 and settled for more golf and time with his young family.

We can but hope that such a situation is distant for Nadal and Roddick, though I recall walking through Heathrow customs on the way home from the Great Britain Davis Cup tie in Switzerland in September, straight into Roddick, who was stopping over having played for more than four hours in a final rubber against Olivier Rochus, of Belgium, a match that drew hardly a note anywhere else in the world. He said he had never felt so mentally and physically exhausted and who really cared?

Roddick responded to my request for a few words last week on having to withdraw from the Masters Cup by saying that he was "too down to speak". One hoped it didn't mean the injury was worse than feared and that he will be fit for a full schedule--perish the prospect--in 2006. He has to look after what is best for him, for few else will.

We are attending a Masters Cup with very few masters and what more alarming wake-up call does tennis want than that?

Here is Roddick Watch's one-size-fits-all solution: Andre Agassi for Comissioner. The end.

***
Tennis-X is reporting that Roddick has signed a deal to represent Lacoste sunglasses. Thank goodness somebody finally had the guts to tell him straight-up that he needs to stop dressing like a dweeb and get some stylish new shades.
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LACOSTE TO THE RESCUE. Andy's dork days will finally be behind him.

Speaking of Lacoste, thanks to athena_wu over at MTF for this picture of an in-store poster of Andy from the Lacoste store. I'm liking the blue striped shirt (why doesn't he wear colorful stuff like this for matches?) and the uncharacteristic one-handed backhand pose. No wonder he looks a bit stupified. "Did I really hit a one-handed backhand?" Yes, Andy, you did! woo! woo! woo!

***
In Davis Cup news, the USTA has selected La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club in California as the site for the 2006 Davis Cup World Group First Round Tie, USA vs Romania.
Andy Roddick and Bryan Brothers Expected to Lead U.S. Team Against Romania

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., November 14, 2005 -- The USTA today announced the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club in La Jolla, Calif., as the site for the 2006 Davis Cup first round match between the United States and Romania, February 10-12. The match will mark the first time since 1996 that Davis Cup will be played in the San Diego area. Andy Roddick and the No. 1 doubles team in the world, Bob and Mike Bryan, are expected to represent the United States. Other potential U.S. players include Robby Ginepri, James Blake and Taylor Dent.

Tickets for the three-day, best-of-five match series will go on sale to the general public December 5 and can be purchased by calling (888) 484-USTA. Tickets will be sold as a three-day series with prices ranging from $90 to $375, with VIP packages available. Visitors attending the three-day event can book advance guest room reservations at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club or the Sea Lodge Hotel by calling (800) 656-4980. For more information, visit online at www.ljbtc.com or www.sealodge.com.

Hopefully, some tennis fans will be on-hand to loudly cheer on Team USA this time around, unlike what happened in Carson, Calif. earlier this year where all we heard was noise pollution from way too many Croatian fans in the stands.

***
Roddick's official site is reporting that The Andy Roddick Foundation will be honored by receiving the Outstanding Foundation Award presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals at the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon held at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Congrats to Andy!

News:
• China crisis [BBC]
• Tennis year ends with wimpers [NY Times]
• Tennis stars run off their feet [Hindu.com]
• Chinese dismayed as stars drop out [CNN]
• Injured Agassi concerned about player burnout [The Star]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bring Me the Head of Ben Affleck

With tennis season almost officially over, I'm not sure yet if I'll continue to update this blog every day, or maybe every other day, or less. I've made a list of tantalizing subjects to talk about during the long one-month off-season so that'll keep things humming along for a bit. Then, just as I'm about to run out of things to talk about I'll be counting on Roddick to do something that will piss me off again which will result in a five week tirade guaranteed to hog up this blogspace for quite a while.

***
Added some screencaps taken from the Paris Masters to my photo gallery. Enjoy.

***
There was a headline on Yahoo news about a week ago that cracked me up. It said, "Report: A-Rod cautioned on playing poker." It took me a few seconds to realize that it wasn't talking about our A-Rod but baseball's Alex Rodriguez instead. It was an honest mistake. We all know that our A-Rod is just as addicted to poker as every other sports figure these days, even the pristine Roger Federer was weakly connected to a poker scandal recently. I even heard a rumor (that I actually don't doubt) that Roddick had joined the web gambling site, PartyPoker. In fact, after the game sold out last Christmas, I don't know any male who doesn't have a Texas Hold 'Em party every week and I put the blame squarely on Ben Affleck's shoulders. No, I'm not kidding. Because it was his brilliant idea to start the Celebrity Poker shows and then it caught on with every fatass beer-swilling lump of cheetos-nourished flesh on the planet, and now poker is just one more flippin' NON-sport that tennis has to compete with on ESPN. Thank you for your worthy contribution to sports, Ben Asslick.
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YOU GOTTA KNOW WHEN TO FOLD THEM. Somebody get this guy off my ESPN.

***
An update on Andy's injury from the Sun-Sentinel:
Roddick's Injury Not Serious

Andy Roddick, who dropped out of this week's $4 million Masters Cup tournament because of a bad back, is not seriously injured and expects to be ready in two weeks to begin training for the 2006 season.

The problem is muscular, not disk related, and one of the major factors in Roddick's decision not to go to Shanghai was sitting for 15 hours on an airplane with this lumbar strain.

Plus, he probably wouldn't be able to practice when he got to the Far East. So he has gone home to Austin, Texas, and his coach, Dean Goldfine, is back in Aventura getting reacquainted with his family.

It's a shame that Andy had to miss Shanghai but I am happy to hear that the injury is not disk-related (a far more serious injury that could've sidelined him for months). The 15-hour flight likely would've made his back worse. Take care of that back, Andy. We want you strong and healthy and ready to rule the Australian Open when your holiday break is over.

***
Peter Bodo over at TennisWorld has some nice words to say about the way Andy handled his withdrawal from Shanghai:
Of course, unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past two days, you also know that Andy Roddick has pulled out of the Shanghai Tennis Masters Cup [. . .]

[. . .] the men have tried to put the best face on their hardships. Here's the money quote from the announcement that Roddick pulled out of Shanghai with a bad lower back:

"Though I have continued to practice, train and play, the lower back spasms continue. . . . After being evaluated by medical staff upon my return to the United States, it is now clear that I am not able to resume tennis activities for 10-14 days. I apologize to the loyal fans and sponsors that have expected my participation in Tennis Masters Cup. It is an honor for me to have qualified for this event for the third straight year. I realize the tremendous amount of time and effort the ATP and the Chinese government have spent on the event, and know it will be a huge success. I look forward to getting healthy, starting my off-season workouts for the 2006 season, and working towards qualifying for Shanghai next year."

Oh, sure, you can say it's all spin and diplomatic make-nice language. But there's nothing wrong with treating fans and sponsors with deference, unless it's disingenuous. I don't think that's the case for Roddick. It was pretty clear in the Paris Masters Series event that he was hurt. His statement of withdrawal is, simply, classy.

If Federer can play anywhere near his best, the tournament will be saved, despite losing Roddick and the expectant dad, Hewitt (why should he have gone to Shanghai anyway--just to waxed by the Mighty Fed for the 5,009th time?). Of course, it would have been nice of Hewitt to show a little more regret for missing the Masters Cup, as well as a nod of appreciation a la Roddick, but he's a callow guy.

Jeez, doesn't anybody in the media have one positive thing to say about Lleyton Hewitt?

***
The Poster Boy for Ghetto Magazines

Andy is scheduled to do a photo shoot with City and Shore magazine this month, so that's just one more fancy rag mag that we'll never get our hands on to read. City and Shore? Would it kill Roddick's handlers to set up an appointment with a national magazine for once? I work in New York City where you can usually find any kind of garbage publication around but not even this magazine would be carried by the Indian newsstands. I mean. what's next on his publicity schedule? Buggies and Wagons magazine?

Photo by leuvenbelgium at LiveJournal

Y-M-C-A! Wait, this isn't a gay bar?

***
Gossip! Gossip! We've got gossip!

Well, we don't got the gossip, but we found it. Some shameless slut over at LiveJournal had the chance to party with the US Davis Cup team in Belgium. So what does she think of Marat Safin's best buddy? "He's an alright guy. A little too cocky for me but nice enough." Here's her scintillating account of the whole sordid affair including photos.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

When East Meets West

Marat Safin recently sat down for an interview with Sport Express (translation courtesy of Annie from The Guy From Russia) where he made an intriguing comment about Andy Roddick:
Q: Is there anyone from the top players you haven't managed to build a relationship with?

Safin: Roddick and I don't talk to each other. We fell out during the Olympic Games in Athens.

Q: What hapenned?

Safin: I am not going to tell, it's stupid. But the man has changed and not for the best. I've known him, Federer and Hewitt practically since childhood, we're of the same age, we've been playing each other forever. I have an excellent relationship with the other two. Federer became more disciplined, serious, a real Swiss. He is a very good person. Once I had to present someone I knew with a racquet and I didn't have one on me. I asked Roger for one and he gave it to me without hesitation. I have wonderful memories about Sampras--he treated me really well and I respected him deeply. Just as I respect Agassi.

As is the case with many rumors, the tennis illuminati around the web immediately put this down as proof that Safin and Roddick hated each other's guts. Other than jumping to conclusions about their unknown relationship, I have to ask: why would Roddick and Safin be friends? And if they're not friends, why would this be a big deal? I can't think of two more different people. Andy's always in Texas. Marat's always in Monte Carlo. Andy is very American and who has adopted Texas (yes, Bush Country) as his home. Marat is a worldly Russian who loves Europe. What on earth could they possibly have in common besides tennis?
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HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU, KID. Safin and Roddick may never be friends but there is mutual professional respect between them.

Whether Safin and Roddick actually like each other or not isn't a big concern of mine. The part that concerns me the most is the quote: ". . .the man has changed and not for the best." Sadly, this may be true. Many of us Roddick-watchers have noticed a change in Roddick, and even his Davis Cup captain, Patrick McEnroe, has publicly commented on it during his matches. Almost gone is the bundle of fun energy who looked like he was having a grand old time playing tennis out there. In his place is an older kid who has now tasted success, lost it, and is desperate to get it back again. He also sloshes through too many of his matches and has a more negative energy to him. Did you notice that even when he wins a match, he won't allow himself to smile and enjoy it? Even his clothes are drab. Andy has learned a hard lesson: getting to the top was the easy part; staying there is a whole different ballgame, and the pressure seems getting to him. This is subject I could discuss for a bit, so I'll save it for another blog entry. And as to whether Safin is talking about the same "change" as I am, well, that is up for grabs until he elaborates on it.

Getting back to the more interesting topic at hand: I think when you partner a fiery European with a fiery American, it pretty much guarantees a combustible mix. I can't remember the last time I watched a Roddick-Safin match and found myself getting bored. And now thanks to this spicy little tidbit, the next time Roddick and Safin meet on court (probably at the Australian Open) we'll all be watching them just a little more closely looking for any hint of discord. Hopefully some daring journalist will remind Safin of his comments and ask him if he's changed his mind about Roddick. Andy and Marat better keep themselves in check because with every fistpump and staredown and bathroom break, we of the tennis illuminati society will be ready to POUNCE.

On a personal note, is anyone else getting bored by all the constant "Roger is wonderful and perfect" leg-humping compliments by his peers? Oh, I don't doubt that Federer isn't "all that" but it sure does get boring hearing the same breathless adulation all the time. If anyone ever needed a sex scandal, it's Roger.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Cat's Out of the Bag

I don't know how I managed to stumble across this but I did. Andy Roddick's official site has been hinting at some big changes coming up soon and uh, well, I guess this is part of their big change plan: a new userface. Check out the test site here and the main page here.

***
American Express still wants Andy (and his missing Mojo)

After the disastrous USO "Andy's Mojo" marketing campaign, in case there were still any lingering doubts about whether American Express will continue their relationship with Roddick or not, Roddick is scheduled to film a new American Express commercial later this month. Hopefully it will be something simple but humorous, like the popular trophy-fell-on-my-head advertisement that was a hit both in the states and overseas, and had even won an award for best sports commercial.

And more importantly: one that won't come back and bite them in the ass.

***
Most fashionable players in tennis

That closet fashionista, Robby Ginepri, called the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to give his list of the five most fashionable folks in tennis:
1. James Blake. Gotta start with one of my boys. He's always trying to look good. Always has new stuff to wear.
2. Andy Roddick. The Lacoste gear is pretty original. Not too many players are wearing it. It's kind of old school.
3. The Williams sisters. They usually have new attire for the U.S. Open.
4. Carlos Moya. The sleeveless look with the little tattoo around the biceps.
5. Anna Kournikova. She's always looking good.

Get to Lacoste now before the stampede.

By the way, is "old school" the new code for "boring blah and lame"? It's time for Andy and Lacoste to rediscover the joys of color.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Rambling On

Even though Andy Roddick's season is now over, that doesn't mean there won't be any more news, quips, quotes, rumors, or photos of Roddick to pick apart and ruminate over for the rest of the year. Au contraire. Our young man will be busy fulfilling sponsor and charity duties throughout the holiday season. And if that's not enough, there's always the garbage heap known as internet tennis messageboards to occupy and entertain us with their constant prattling over anything Roddick.

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MAKE THEM STOP TALKING ABOUT ME. Andy Roddick gets some advice from Sir Elton John during the World Team Tennis Smash Hits event in Hershey Monday. Photo by Vinny Tennis / Intelligencer Journal

***
LancasterOnline published a short piece today called Groundstrokes and air miles about tennis players' and their frequent flier miles. A few choice quotes are posted here. You can read the entire article below in the News section:
One-way flight from Paris to Austin, Texas: $3,000.
Next-day flight from Austin to Philadelphia: $350.
Playing mixed doubles with Elton John at an AIDS charity event against Anna Kournikova and James Blake: priceless.
And that was just Andy Roddick's Sunday morning through Monday afternoon.
Think the half an hour to work is a pain each day?
Try 5,100 miles from Paris to Austin to get home, and then another 1,300 miles from Austin to Hershey for work the next day.
Ken Myerson, Roddick's agent, said that his travel from Paris to Hershey was one of the more strenuous trips he's dealt with in the recent past.
In typical Roddick fashion, though, he made light of his trip.
"I had a lot of coffee ... and that definitely helps," he said. "The sport is extremely international, so (traveling great distances) is not completely unheard of," Roddick said.

This is the just the latest article of many that have been written in the past several months over the strenuously long tennis season (11 months) that takes a huge toll on the players (as evidenced by the number of absentee top players for the Masters Cup in Shanghai this year), and once again a call is being put out to the ATP officials: What exactly do you guys plan on doing to protect the integrity of the game? When Roger Federer is constantly dropping hints about how his still-healing ankle may prevent him from playing in the season-ending Cup and Kim Clijsters is saying that she doesn't care about achieving the No. 1 rank, she just wants to go home and sleep--what more will it take before it finally sinks in that something has to be done about the scheduling? Why is the idea of pushing the Australian Open forward by one month such a difficult task? Who's listening?

***
Charles Bricker of the Florida Sun-Sentinel, who wrote a terrific blog of the US Open experience this year, seems to think that Roddick's road to tennis glory will be even tougher next year, thanks in part to the emergence of brilliant new tennis talent in the forms of Rafael Nadal, Andrew Murray, Richard Gasquet, and Tomas Berdych, all of whom will be fighting to unseat Roddick, Hewitt, and Federer from their comfy positions atop the ATP totem pole :
Roddick will face difficult road in 2006

There were a number of happy memories for Andy Roddick during his fifth year on the ATP tour.

Scaling down his number of tournaments in order to stay fresh, he still won five tournaments, reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and was runner-up at Wimbledon. At 10-3, he won a high percentage of his clay-court matches.

But there is no escaping the disappointments and failures. He was knocked out in the first round of the U.S. Open by Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and failed to hold a two-set lead over Jose Acasuso in the second round at the French.

He also fell one notch in the rankings to No. 3, behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and it's unclear if he'll ever rise above those two great talents. None of the five tournaments he won were Masters Series events, though he finished the regular season with an 8-1 run and is at a significantly higher fitness level than he was at the end of 2004.

He's a better player than he was in 2004, but he'll have to redouble his training efforts--and get over the back injury that kept him out of next week's Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai--to stay in the top five during 2006 because of the dose of young talent making an impact.

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Andy Roddick will have to get over the back injury that kept him out of next week's Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai to stay in the top five during 2006 because of the dose of young talent making an impact. Andy says (as imagined by Roddick Watch): "Quit writing me off!"

A few quick comments from me:

1) Federer is the least of Roddick's problems right now, but his win over Hewitt in Cincy was remarkable in that it showed us that Roddick is capable of moving out of comfort zone, changing tactics and out-thinking a troublesome opponent. Believe it or not, not many players are capable of doing this. They live and die by their game alone and change nothing which is why their rankings remain the same. This is a positive precursor to future meetings with Federer;

2) Nadal is unproven vs. Roddick on the hardcourts. Their only meeting was at USO 2004 and Roddick bageled him and won in straight sets. Remember, too, that Roddick--he of the European clay allergy--took a set off Nadal at the Davis Cup finals in Spain last year. No dice until they meet again;

3) his game is in transition and one of the mistakes I feel that Team Roddick did was focus too much on improving some weaknesses that will never become a weapon. By doing so, Roddick's confidence has been steadily chipped-away at for over a year. This lack of confidence not only affects the weak parts of his game but his strengths also suffer and as a result, Roddick wasn't hitting his go-to shots (forehand and serve) with nearly as much authority as he used to several months ago and hence, the shock first-round exists to a Mr Nobody. No confidence = no intimidation factor. Go back to the basics.

4) the other upcoming tennis stars such as Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych may be oozing in talent and lacking in fear but they are also unproven against Roddick. Having a shock win over Roger Federer doesn't mean anything either when you go up against a separate player. Tim Henman, you'll recall, had a huge winning lead over Federer for quite a while but not once was he able to get one over on Federer's lesser equal, Lleyton Hewitt. Now they both wholly own him. How quickly things can change in just a year.

News:

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Some Off-Year

Here's more proof that the ATP is really an acronym for Abush The Players:
ATP to fine Roddick, Hewitt, and Safin for Shanghai withdrawal

Three players will be fined by the Association of Tennis Professionals for withdrawing from the Tennis Masters Cup starting Sunday in Shanghai.

Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, and Marat Safin all pulled out this week.

Roddick cited a back injury.

"I apologize to the loyal fans and sponsors that have expected my participation in Tennis Masters Cup," Roddick said Tuesday. "It is an honor for me to have qualified for this event for the third-straight year. I realize the tremendous amount of time and effort the ATP and the Chinese government have spent on the event, and know it will be a huge success. I look forward to getting healthy, starting my off-season workouts for the 2006 season, and working towards qualifying for Shanghai next year."

Hewitt withdrew to be with his wife, actress Rebecca Cartwright, who is expecting the couple's first child. Safin cited a knee ailment.

***
So with Roddick withdrawing from The Masters Cup, his 2005 season is now officially over. No doubt the amateur tennis pundits who clutter the tennis boards on the web will have their say on just how "disappointing" Roddick's year has been.

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Roddick's 2005 year wasn't his best but it was far from his worst.

Eurosport lists some of Andy's notable achievements this year:

2005 Win-Loss: 59-14
5 titles
Leads ATP statistics for aces (778)
service games won (92%)
and is ranked second in first serve points won (81%)
and break points saved (71%)

Not bad for an "off-year". These are numbers anybody ranked 4 through 300 would kill for, but because Roddick is a former grand slam champion and World No. 1, the expectations are much higher for him and when he doesn't deliver on his promise, the going gets tough. Hence, the recent cluck-clucking he's been getting in the press since his disastrous first-round outing at the US Open a few weeks ago. But I think Roddick understands and expects this, and he expects more from himself as well. He's had some luckless moments this year (such as the ten-minute meltdown during his semifinal match vs. Hewitt at the Australian Open which resulted in an avalanche of bad press for him; the Davis Cup nightmare earlier this year vs team Croatia when nothing was clicking for team USA (Roddick was the only one to win any of his singles matches but he still lost the clincher to Ivan Ljubicic), another dream lost; losing a two-set lead over Jose Acasuso at the French Open--the first time that's ever happened to him; first-round losses to players he shouldn't be losing to such as Paul-Henri Mathieu, Ivo Karlovic, and Gilles Muller (the last of which issued another avalanche of critical press for him). The whispers have been getting louder by the month: Andy's lost his indimidation factor, he's no longer got "it", he's overhyped, everyone's figured out his game. Worst of all, he lost his Mojo and has became one of the worst punchlines in tennis history.

Mojo jokes aside, I'm not buying into any of it. He's only 23 and it's a bit premature to toss in the towel and say that his career is over. The negatives this year haven't completely outweighed the positives. He's made a lot of improvement to his game over the past year, particularly in his fitness, his movement, his backhand, and slice, and he will keep improving. His win over nemesis Lleyton Hewitt at the Cincinnati Masters this year was sublime and long overdue. It may well be the beginning of the end of Hewitt's dominance over Roddick. And who will be the next monkey Andy finally gets off his back? Agassi? Federer? He has some scores to settle in 2006 and I don't doubt that he is jonesing for some theraputic revenge.

***
Vote for Andy in the ATP's Mercedes-Benz Play of the Year Contest. You have until November 21 to cast your vote.

***
Andy is mentioned in this week's Tennis Mailbag:
Roddick could hardly move against Ljubicic, losing in the Paris Masters semifinals. After the match, he said his injury may prevent him from going to Shanghai for the Masters Cup Finals. Yet on Monday, Andy is in Philadelphia playing four sets of singles in a charity exhibition! Granted, it was an Elton John charity, and Elton always reciprocates to Andy's charity events, but isn't Andy risking a lot more by playing this exhibition? Especially with Roger Federer coming off an injury, Hewitt not showing up, Marat Safin out--Andy's chances of winning this big tournament are much improved. But he seems willing to blow it off so he can do charity exhibitions. Isn't that foolhardy?--Mary Durkin, Los Angeles

Roddick was in a tough spot. If he pulls out of the exhibition, he is yet another me-first tennis player who can't honor a commitment. The event suffers and his mettle is called into question. ("Sore back? Come on, you wuss. You're just playing hit-and-giggle for a few sets alongside Rocket Man, for Chrissakes!") On the other hand, when he plays and then withdraws from Shanghai the following night, it looks pretty shabby.

The real question, I suppose, is this: Why would Roddick schedule an exhibition in Hershey the week between a Masters Series event and the Masters Cup? Yes, Elton John is a buddy. And yes, the event benefits both World TeamTennis and AIDS research. But for a guy who's been complaining vocally about the length and rigor of the tennis season, playing a November exo in the middle of Pennsylvania isn't exactly the best way to conserve your battery. One of Brad Gilbert's complaints with Roddick was that he over-scheduled. Wonder what he would say about this?

***
If you live in North America, check out the ESPN TV schedule for the upcoming Masters Cup.

News:

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Roddick out of TMC Shanghai

After much hand-wringing and discussion, it is now official: as reported by the official Masters Cup website, Andy Roddick has pulled out of TMC Shanghai due to lower back spasms and David Nalbandian will take his place.

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A day after playing in a charity event, Roddick backs
out of Shanghai due to continuing muscle spasms.


TMC Masters Cup site reports:
Nalbandian Replaces Roddick in Shanghai Field

A lower back injury has sidelined World No. 3 Andy Roddick, forcing him to withdraw from Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai. Roddick sustained the injury on Friday during his quarterfinal match versus David Ferrer at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.

The 23-year-old American was to make his third consecutive appearance at the $4.45 million circuit finale, which begins this Sunday at the new Qi Zhong Stadium. Roddick owns a 5-3 record in the event and reached the semifinals of Tennis Masters Cup Houston in both 2003-04.

"Though I have tried to continue with practice, the lower back spasms continue," said Roddick. "After being evaluated by medical staff upon my return to the United States, it is now clear that I am not able to resume tennis-activities for 10-14 days.

"I apologize to the loyal fans and sponsors that have expected my participation in Tennis Masters Cup. It is an honor for me to have qualified for this event for the third-straight year. I realize the tremendous amount of time and effort the ATP and the Chinese government have spent on the event, and know it will be a huge success. I look forward to getting healthy, starting my off-season workouts for the 2006 season, and working towards qualifying for Shanghai next year.”

Roddick's injury translated into David Nalbandian's good fortune. The Argentine, who had a strong circuit finish that included back-to-back semifinal appearances in Masters Series Madrid and Basel, was elevated from his alternate status to a berth in the elite eight-man field. The Argentine titled in Munich this year, and was one of three players along with Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt to reach the quarterfinals or better in three Grand Slam tournaments.

Nalbandian played in the 2003 Masters Cup, and is the third Argentine to qualify for this year's finale, joining countrymen Guillermo Coria and Gaston Gaudio. The other contenders set to take the stage in Shanghai include World No. 1 Federer, Spanish teen sensation Rafael Nadal, 12-time circuit finale competitor Andre Agassi, and first-time qualifiers Nikolay Davydenko and Ivan Ljubicic.

TMC Shanghai Field of Nightmares

With Roddick's exit, this Masters Cup field now ranks as one of the weakest fields in years. Instead of a tournament of the elite, we get a tournament of the B-squad. Roger Federer, the No. 1 seed, was first to arrive in Shanghai to prepare but even he says he is not sure if his ankle will be healed enough to play. No. 4 seed Lleyton Hewitt withdrew to be with his family with his wife due to give birth any day now. Marat Safin has been trying to heal from a torn ligament in his knee for months now. Nadal, Agassi, and a very tired Ljubicic are the only three top contenders remaining. Nalbandian is the wild card of the group, having proven his all-surface ability but mentally, he's still a bit of a flake. The others, first-time qualifier Nikolay Davydenko, and repeat qualifiers Guillermo Coria and Gaston Gaudio do not have favorable hardcourt records.

***
In better news, Andy's participation in Elton John's AIDS foundation charity event last night was a hit.

As reported by the Lebanon Daily News:
Roddick, in particular, went the extra mile to make it to Hershey to take part, having only returned from Paris, where he was playing in an ATP Tour event, on Sunday.

"It's not out of the ordinary for what we do," said Roddick, shrugging off the hectic travel schedule as part of the life of a pro tennis player.

The most heralded player in the event, Roddick, currently ranked No. 3 in the world, was also the most entertaining, playfully bantering with players and fans alike throughout the three-hour event and clearly enjoying the break from the intensity of life on the pro tour.

"This event is fun because it allows us to be more interactive with the fans," Roddick said. "And it's fun to interact with a team, since we're usually playing for ourselves. That being said, we're also athletes, and we want to win."

Roddick was able to satisfy his appetite for victory, capping off the night and clinching the match for Team Billie Jean with a singles victory over Blake, the Harvard grad who made a thrilling run to the semifinals at this year’s U.S. Open before falling to Andre Agassi in five sets.

Roddick was also victorious in men's doubles with Ferreira, defeating the Blake brothers 5-4, and in mixed doubles, as he and Raymond got past Blake and Kournikova by a set score of 5-3.


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A-Rod goes the distance for charity. And pays the price.

News:

Monday, November 07, 2005

Will Bust Back for Charity

21 photos from the Paris Masters semifinal have been added to my photo gallery. Enjoy.

TV Alert! The Food Network will be doing a special called "Behind the Bash: Taste of Tennis" on Nov. 9 at 9:00pm and on Nov. 13 at 11:00pm. Andy has attended Taste of Tennis for several years now so maybe they will interview him or show him making a nuisance of himself in Emeril's kitchen.

The ATP Tennis website has finally given Andy his own special page. Go take a look.

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Andy Roddick and Sir Elton John get directions from Billy Jean King, right, during the annual charity tennis event benefiting the Elton John AIDS foundation Monday, Nov. 7, 2005, in Hershey, Pa. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)

Hmm. Looks like Andy's back is A-ok. Or maybe it's just A-ok for charity events but not for Masters Cup events. Depending on your point of view, this could either be good news ("Hurray! Andy's back is healed!") or questionable news ("Why is he playing tennis at a charity event with a bad back with only a few days left before the Masters Cup starts!?") Such is the life of being a Roddick fan. Love him for his devotion to charity. Hate him for his lack of common sense. Andy would play on crutches if the event had the words "save the children" in it.

It's ironic, because Andy himself had called for a shorter season just a few weeks ago, precisely because of all the injuries players sustain. The player-injury dilemma at this past masters series has irked Paris tournament director Cedric Pioline to no end, and many sports fans and writers have been compiling injury reports and writing editorials throughout the year in an effort to get a public discourse rolling on what the ITF can do to fix this problem. The Times Online website reports:
Firstly, five of the six marquee players of the men's game offered their apologies in the form of doctor's certificates. Then, just 17 months after revering Gaston Gaudio as French Open champion, an exasperated Parisian public vented its disgust by booing the Argentine off the court after an embarrassingly half-hearted performance saw him lose without winning a game in the second set of his quarter-final.

Now tournament director Cedric Pioline, denied the services of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Andre Agassi, must placate his sponsors and pacify the paying public by presenting a far from enticing final between an accomplished but hardly charismatic Croat (Ljubicic) and an undeniably talented but unseeded 20-year-old Czech (Tomas Berdych, a 6-1 3-6 6-3 winner over compatriot Radek Stepanek).

Apart from Safin, most are expected to be fit for the grand finale Masters Cup that begins in Shanghai in a week’s time. Not surprisingly, Pioline is questioning his misfortune. As a former top-flight competitor, he understood the reasons but it did not diminish the irritation at being forced to change the posters advertising the event numerous times in recent weeks.

"I am perplexed more than angry," said the 36-year-old. "But something has to be changed. They (the players) . . . are on a merry-go-round that is getting too fast. I know only too well what it's like."

So while we wait to get official word about whether Andy is going to Shanghai or not, check out this French article on Andy. If you can't read French, then here's the Googled version that makes my French look spectacular.

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Michelin Man, you make me feel fat.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Mystery of the Evil Pinky Solved!

TV Alert! ESPN2 will broadcast a one-hour highlights show of BNP Paribas Masters Series from 1:00am to 2:00am Monday morning, Nov. 7.

***
Fans will remember last month's Davis Cup controversy in which Roddick exchanged some words with Belgium's Davis Cup captain, Steven Martens, during the traditional dinner that precedes Davis Cup play. Their acrimony was carried over into the matches played throughout the weekend, particularly during Roddick's singles match with Christophe Rochus.

As you'll recall, after Roddick sewed up his comfortable win over Rochus, he high-fived his Davis Cup team and then curiously began waving his pinky around and putting it to his lips. This behavior had tennis boards buzzing, wondering what the mystery gesture was all about and what secret message Roddick was trying to send.


Did Dr. Evil steal Andy's Mojo?

Many tennis fans immediately picked up on the Dr. Evil gesture but they missed Roddick's insinuation that Steven Martens is a dead-ringer for Dr. Evil himself.

The October 2005 issue of Tennis Week magazine offers the missing pieces to the puzzle:
"At our official team dinner earlier this week," Roddick revealed after the tie, "he [Martens] made some really disrespectful remarks to me and to our team, kind of making fun of my early exit at the U.S. Open. And this was in a room full of 50 to 75 people! It was probably the most unprofessional thing I've ever seen in my career, and I took it personal."

Just after the main course was cleared from the tables and before dessert was served, the two team captains stood near their tables to make their remarks. U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe was genial, [. . .] saying that the team members were enjoying themselves in preparation for the good competition they were anticipating for the weekend. Martens, however, took a different approach.

An animated sort anyway, Martens bounded from his seat and drifted from the Belgian team table more toward the center of the room. As soon as he said the words "U.S. Open" and "American Express," American guests at the dinner began to cringe and cut their eyes toward Roddick, whose first round loss at the Open was magnified by the American Express ad campaign that asked the question, "Where's Andy's mojo?" Martens was clearly trying to be funny, pulling various credit cards from his wallet, saying that those brands of cards were welcome throughout Belgium, but not American Express—at least not during this particular Davis Cup weekend. His jokes failed miserably. A couple of Belgian VIPs even apologized for his misstep at humor.

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Belgium's Davis Cup captain, Steven Martens. Is this the face of evil?

It was clear that Roddick didn't find anything funny in Martens' remarks when, in the middle of them, he shot back, "Has anyone ever told you you look like Dr. Evil?" referring to the villain of the Austin Powers films that popularized the notion of mojo.

"It was the most unbelievable thing you would have ever seen," Roddick told a surprised Belgian press corp after his tie-clinching, five-set victory against Olivier Rochus, "to the point where even Kim Clijsters came up to me two days ago and apologized for it. So, yes, I was very pissed off at the captain the whole weekend. If that's his idea of being a good captain, then I seriously have to question that."

image
The real Dr. Evil.

Martens [. . .] said that he knew Roddick misunderstood his intentions the day after the dinner when they crossed paths during the teams' practice sessions. While Martens engaged James Blake in conversation, Roddick would not say a word. "I could see that he was upset," Martens said, "so I thought it best to just back away."

Martens was indeed surprised to hear that Roddick considered what he had intended as good-natured humor instead an insult. "I used to have great respect for Andy as an athlete and as a person," Martens said. "I still have respect for him as an athlete and as a person. But I see now that he is still very young."

Said Roddick, in his final thoughts on Martens' dinner speech, "If Patrick had done the same thing, I would have told him to sit down and shut up." —TW

***
On an unrelated-to-this-story note, there is still no official word yet on whether Roddick will not attend the Masters Cup. Personally, I feel it's still pretty much a go, with a week's rest at home stuffing himself with Mom's home-cooking and getting treatment for his back, he should be ok for Shanghai. Says Roddick, on whether the back injury will prevent him from attending the Masters Cup: "I don't know. I hope not but, obviously, I'm not as optimistic as I was two days ago. I'll go back, we'll treat it and if I feel like I can go, I'll go. If not, then I won't. It felt okay walking around earlier in the day but as soon as I started moving, it just really stiffened up and made it tough to move and hit my shots. It's low back, it's just tight. The doctor used a bunch of medical terms I'm not intelligent enough to understand. We're going to evaluate it again here and when I get home."

Another friendly piece of advice to Roddick from myself: please quit putting yourself down so much, kiddo. You're not as think as you dumb you are.

News:

Saturday, November 05, 2005

No Second Chances

Ljubicic def. Roddick 6-3 7-5

After mounting an incredible come-back win against David Ferrer yesterday, Roddick could not whip up the same magic today and lost in a little over an hour in the semi-finals to Ivan Ljubicic. It was apparent during the match that Roddick's back was still causing him pain. Roddick did not call for an injury time-out during play but instead, he would get medical attention between change-overs. This is just the latest example of Roddick's great sportsmanship and respect for his opponents.

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The bad luck continues but Roddick is still heading in the right direction.

Although it is frustrating to see another great opportunity slip through Andy's fingers again, he has to take away some positives from his performances in this past week: For once, he didn't mentally crap out in his first match against a determined Taylor Dent and suffer another first-round loss. Then he blew Hrbaty away. And in the quarterfinals yesterday, he showed the biggest heart and fight that I've seen from him in a long time. He is definitely on the right track and this all bodes well for 2006. The back injury was simply bad luck and I don't doubt that had Andy been healthy, he would've taken care of business with the Croat as well. He's done good.

Andy's stats from the match:
62% on first serve
10 aces
1 double-fault
14 winners
19 unforced errors
0/0 on break chances

Click here to listen to part of Andy's post-match interview.

From the BNP Paribas website:
Ljubicic too strong for an injured Roddick

A determined Ivan Ljubicic convincingly cruised through his semifinal duel against Andy Roddick, defeating the American 6/3 7/5 in 1h04. Suffering from a back problem Roddick received treatment twice during the match, and didn't look 100% fit to defend his chances. Ljubicic will attempt on Sunday to capure his first ever ATP Masters Series.

When Ivan Ljubicic and Andy Roddick walk out on court, one could expect a lot from the outcome. Possibly two of the hottest players on tour, when Federer and Nadal are not playing! Unfortunately, Andy Roddick suffering from a back injury was never able to produce his best tennis. The result of this injury for the American: very little movement on the court and an extremely weak backhand.

Keeping this in mind, Roddick was far from being the laughing stock of the court. And if you're familiar with the Americans competitiveness, you would know that even on one leg he’d give it his best shot, may it be for personal pride or out of respect for the 14,000 fans that paid to come and cheer on the kid from Nebraska.

Some serving stats to prove just that: 15 aces for Ljubicic versus 10 for Roddick, only 2 breaks in favour of the Croatian and double fault each.

The eighth and last “Master”

The first of the two breaks came at 1-0 Ljubicic in the first set, allowing the resident of  Monte Carlo to move ahead 3-0. Hard enough to break the Croatian as it is, it would be that much harder if you’re suffering from a stiff back. Roddick was not able to catch the slightest glimpse of a break point.

Even worst, from the moment that Roddick lost his serve he was only able to capture a single point on the Ljubicic serve in the first set. That point being a double fault. And aside a trainer on court at 5/2, to help Roddick stretch out his back, there was not much more to be said. The first set was polished by the eighth and last “Master” 6-3 in 26 minutes.

Back to back ATP Masters series finals

In the second set, Roddick seemed to be moving a bit better. But far from being able to worry the Croatian on his serve. He was however serving with what seemed to be a loser back, and none of the two players ever made it past thirty when returning. Up to 5-5.

At that point in time Ljubicic felt an opportunity to go ahead on Roddick’s serve. A double fault, a passing shot and two winner returns put the Croatian in the drivers seat. A seat in which he seems to be extremely comfortable. Losing a total of 3 points on his serve in the second set, Ivan “the great” pumps the fist, shakes a hand, and goes through for what will be back to back ATP Masters series finals.

After losing to Nadal in Madrid two weeks ago, Ljubicic will attempt to win the last major of the year before the Masters Cup. He will wait to see which of the two Czechs (Berdych or Stepanek) will be his opponent. --Eli Weinstein

News:
Ailing Roddick routed by Ljubicic
Injured Roddick in doubt for Masters Cup
Down and Out: Roddick Loses to Ljubicic in Semifinals

Friday, November 04, 2005

Roddick Wins Over Paris

Roddick def. Ferrer 2-6 6-3 7-6 (10-8)

21 images from today's match were added to my new photo gallery. Enjoy.

Where to begin? Well, the first set was a disaster from the start. Roddick could barely get any first serves in and his groundies were weak while Ferrer came out swinging and broke Roddick immediately. Lasting 40 minutes, Roddick had 5 aces, while Ferrer had 17 winners and 8 unforced errors and was 2-for-5 on break chances. The first set was so error-strewed that when a baby began crying Roddick turned and said, "I know it's bad but it'll get better."

After Ferrer broke Roddick for the second tme in the first set, it was clear that something was wrong as Andy began to grab at his back. Sure enough, during the changeover he called for a trainer to look at his back. "It burns," Andy reportedly said. The trainer worked on Andy's lower back. "How does that feel?" he asked. "Holy shit," was Andy's response, which can't be taken as a positive.

At the start of the second set, with Andy's mobility hampered, David began to kill him on his second serves and cruised on his own serve while Andy continued to struggle in rallies and felt the pressure on his own serve. The only thing that kept Andy in the match was the aces, which he could still hit with decent power, but then he wouldn't be able to chase down many balls that Ferrer would get back. After a long rally in the second game, Roddick didn't even try to reach a backhand winner by Ferrer.

At 2-2 in the second, it became a dogfight for Roddick. Not only was he trying to fend off the attacks from the Spaniard but also the pain in his back He did not have a service game where Ferrer did not at least get to 30.

Amazingly, thanks in part to Roddick's stubborn nature, Ferrer choked while serving at 3-4 and Andy finally managed to break and then serve for the second set. Roddick aced him and Ferrer complained to the line judge, prompting boos from the crowd. Rarely will you see the French rooting for an American, but here they can't get enough of Roddick.

Third set, Ferrer is still cruising on his serve, holding at love most of the time. Andy continues to struggle for a few games, still not able to get a look on any of Ferrer's service games. Ferrer finally breaks Andy for 5-3 and a chance to serve for the set and match. But the crowd is firmly in Andy's corner and they start a slow clap as Andy manages to fight back for the break at love-40. At 15-40 Ferrer chokes again and Andy, pulling another magic trick out of his famous rump, takes the break back and is on serve at 4-5.

Ferrer is looking a bit sluggish but he still manages to get to 30 on most of Andy's serves. Andy holds for 5-all. On serve again, Ferrer manages to hold again at love, 6-5. Andy digs deep to pull off some great serves of his own and at 15-40 he holds for 6-all. TB time.

After going back and forth a bit, Andy finally has MP at 6-5 but Ferrer stays alive with a drop shot at the net, levels it again 6-6. Andy hits an insane 234 KM/H serve to level the TB again at 7-7. Then they go up 8-8. The TB is ridiculous and nerves are on edge. Andy pulls off a brilliant cross-court winner on the run to remain alive at 9-8. Ferrer cannot take Andy's serve and Andy finally wins the TB at 10-8 and the crowd is roaring and on its feet.

Andy matches the crowd's applause and blows kisses at them (a rare gesture from Roddick!). In the best match at Bercy this week, Roddick defeats David Ferrer in a come-back 2-6 6-3 7-6 (10-8) victory, battling against some brilliant play by David Ferrer, and a niggling back injury.

Congratulations Andy. You've now rendered your blog hostess speechless for a second day in a row. I can't take all this brilliant playing from you.

Click here for audio of Andy's press conference.

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"Hey! That tickles!"

Recap of today's match from BNP Paribas website:

Determined Roddick advances to the semifinals

Andy Roddick, of the United States, seeded number 1 of the tournament is still in the race for the title.The American proved his number 3 ranking in the world by dominating hard working David Ferrer of Spain seeded number 10, 2/6 6/3 7/6(8) in 2h12.

Funny enough, the match started off by Roddick losing his serve, an event in its own as the American had not lost his serve since the Davis Cup tie versus Belgium last September (8 matches in a row). Ferrer went on to break the American once again when up 4/1. Two games later, Roddick received medical treatment for a back pain, and logically, the set went to the Spaniard 6-2.

In trouble again

In the first game of the second set, Roddick found himself in trouble again, as he face three break points. With an ace and the help of his opponent (two unforced errors), Andy got out of this slump. In the 8th game, it was his turn to grab his opponent's serve, and a little later, it was one set a piece.

The final set was climatic. Both players held serve up to 4/3, at which point David Ferrer gave himself the chance for a decisive lead. Up 15/40, the Valencia resident slapped a forehand return forcing Roddick to miss.

Up 5/3, the Spaniard, over confident, served a double fault and three unforced errors later gave Roddick the opportunity to level things at 5 games a piece. An opportunity that Roddick did not miss!

“A-Rod”, “A-Rod”

The two players went to the tie breaker. A first match point is saved at 7-6 by Roddick with an ace timed at 146.25 Mph. A few moments later, Ferrer had another opportunity to seal the match, this time, on serve. Back against the wall, Roddick hit an unbelievable cross court forehand passing shot, refusing to die.

The fans (around 12 000 people) were on their feet, shouting and screaming: “A’Rod”, “A’Rod”. Two points after saving the second match point against him, Roddick had a matchpoint in his favour. Wind up.Serve. See ya !

The American will play his second semifinal in Bercy (after 2003). And the awaited heavy hitter showdown between Roddick and Ivan Ljubicic will take place as hoped… -- Eli Weinstein

Semi-final Preview: Roddick vs Ljubicic an explosive duel
Can Andy Roddick stop Ivan Ljubicic? The task looks extremely hard, considering the quality of tennis shown by the Croatian this year. In the last few weeks, he has captured two ATP events (Metz and Vienna), and came very close two weeks ago, to adding the ATP Masters Series Madrid to his list of wins. There, he only bowed in the final, 7-6 in the final set, to the world No. 2 Rafael Nadal.

For Ljubicic, the key word is confidence. Having worked extremely hard with Italian coach Ricardo Piatti, he is playing as though nothing can happen to him. His huge serve, his physical condition, and the power he can generate on his shots are weapons on which he knows he can rely. Although it is already likely that he has secured a spot for the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, he is keen on going all the way in Bercy in order to put all the chances on his side, as well as capturing his first ever ATP Masters Series.

On Friday night, Andy Roddick saved two match points before miraculously escaping defeat against an extremely inspired David Ferrer. Although he dropped his serve for the first time in eight matches (three times!) Roddick’s near-defeat may give him extra energy to try and earn his spot in the final. But he knows the value of his opponent, as Ljubicic won their last encounter, this year, in a thrilling Davis Cup tie.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Roddick Dismantles the Dominator

Roddick def. Hrbaty 6-1, 6-2

Were you sitting down when you read that? Good. Because I'm in shock and awe right now. If you blinked, you missed the match. 50 minutes was all it took. I went out to get pizza for lunch, came back and it was over. Dare I dream that the old Andy is back? *pushes dream away* No! I refuse to get my hopes up only to be disappointed again! But I will celebrate this one win for what it is: awesome.

Here's Andy's match breakdown:
85% of 1st serves
26 winners
16 aces
10 UEs
0 DFs
88% of first serve points won
67% of second serve points won
4 breaks and no breaks against.

A-Rod has now held serve for 106 consecutive games since USO, not including Davis Cup.

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SHOCK AND AWE. Hrbaty never knew what hit him.

Click on this link to hear audio of Andy's press conference.

From the AP wire:
Roddick blitzes into Paris quarter-finals

Top seed Andy Roddick fired down 16 aces as he crushed the feeble resistance of Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty 6-1, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Texan needed just 50 minutes to book a clash with Spain's David Ferrer for a place in the semi-finals as he chases his sixth title of the season.

Compared to the struggles he faced in beating compatriot Taylor Dent in the second round, where he saved 11 break points, Thursday's third round clash was a barnstorming display which breathed some much-needed life into a moribund tourament.

To emphasise his dominance, Roddick gave up just three points on his serve in the entire second set. He has not been broken since the Davis Cup clash against Belgium in September.

[click on link to hear audio]"I played really well tonight which was great because I felt I was lucky to get through the second round," said Roddick who won his fifth title of the season in Lyon last week.

"During Lyon, I felt I played better and better and I'm happy to be in the quarter-finals here."

Post-match review from the BNP Paribas website:

Imperial Roddick

After struggling on Wednesday against a determined Taylor Dent, Andy Roddick seems to have found his cruising rhythm. Poor Dominik Hrbaty proved helpless as he was only able to take three games from the American, bowing in just 50 minutes.

The key of this round of 16 match, was the serve. It is Roddick’s No. 1 weapon, and the American served 84% first serves, and scored 16 aces. As for Hrbaty, he could only pass a mere 52%, and wasn’t able to ace his opponent once.

Fiercely confident, Roddick never faced a single break point, as he remains unbroken since the beginning of his European swing which took him to Madrid and Lyon (where he captured the title), before coming to Paris. "It’s probably the highest first serve percentage I’ve ever had in a match" Roddick said afterwards. "You never really expect matches like that out there, especially after yesterday. Today, I felt comfortable with pretty much every aspect of my game."

In the quarters, Roddick will meet Spain’s David Ferrer for the first time. "He’s tough. He just goes with the mindset that he’s going to make you earn every single point. He puts in about as much effort on a day to day basis, as anyone on the Tour. I have a lot of respect for the way he goes to work every day."  The respect is most likely reciprocal. -- Georges Homsi

23 photos from today's match have been added to my Photobucket gallery. Enjoy.

Quarterfinal Preview: Andy Roddick vs David Ferrer
Andy Roddick didn’t spend too much time on the court on Thursday. Against the solid Slovak Dominik Hrbaty, Roddick only needed 50 minutes to gain his place in the quarterfinals dropping only three games. And to date, he still hasn’t lost a single service game since he arrived in Europe two and a half weeks ago. After struggling to defeat Taylor Dent in his opening match, he now seems to have found the level of tennis which allowed him to win in Lyon last week. These are bad news for David Ferrer who produced some excellent tennis to defeat Tommy Haas. Strangely enough, Ferrer and Roddick have never met to date. The American will be a strong favourite, especially if he proves able to play as well as against Hrbaty.

News:
What Roddick wants is a little respect
No-limit play at Roddick's house
Roddick reaches Paris quarters
Roddick delighted after Hrbaty romp
Roddick turns on power

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