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.


Ellen (williaer) said...

oooh, you just made me a more excited about the AO - im kinda hoping for some sorta scandal (à la ljubicic vs. andy USO 03) to spice things up. hopefully it's after andy beats him :)
i can dream

tangy - as always, you're the master

tangerine said...

LOL! Thanks Ellen. And yes, the AO is going to be more interesting now if Andy and Marat play. *devil grin* I hope they do. I love their matches.

Noelle De Guzman said...

Le sigh...

My poor precious illusions, demolished one by one. ;) Tangy, are you going to blog about Andy's night about town in Belgium? Hehehe...

Renee said...

Ahh... I still remember the last time Andy and Marat play - last year's TMC, RR 2nd group match :) Marat was, of course, less complimentary losing the match...
Looking forward to 2006 AO, and let's hope Marat won't be playing Andy on his birthday *damn the stupid superstitions*

Looking forward to your blog on Andy's changes...

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