Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Queens: Time to Hit the Panic Button


"You guys are always bitching about something."

-- ANDY RODDICK, to a reporter at the Australian Open. When he loses badly, this quote could apply to fans like me as well.


SF: Blake def. Roddick 7-5 6-4

Well, that match wiped yesterday's smile right off my face. What exactly is the point of Roddick playing great tennis one day--and getting his fans all excited and happy again--only to crap out against one of his bitches in the next match? He was 6-0 vs Blake. And now he's gone and lost in straight sets to a very good player who is hitting his peak but one who, on paper, should not have beaten him on his favorite and best surface. Ai yi yi.

Put your seat belts on, I'm about to pop off

This loss is tough because in the fifth installment of "On the Rod" Andy's mouth said very different things from what actually happened during the match: "[Blake's] gunning for the #1 American spot and I'm not sure I want to give that up yet." You had me fooled, Andy. Watching your disastrous play, and goofing off in between games, I don't think anyone could tell that you really meant what you said.

And having to listen to Michael Stitch lay into Roddick's poor strategizing on the BBC livefeed was added salt in the wound. I hated listening to it but he was absolutely right. It sucks when Andy goes from 60 to zero within one day. All of the glowing high marks Roddick had attained after the Gonzalez match were immediately wiped away when Blake broke Roddick's serve in the very first game of their semifinal.

To add insult to injury, Blake ended up playing mediocre tennis in the final versus Lleyton Hewitt and Hewitt ran away with his record fourth Queens title. It figures, doesn't it? That players only bring their best tennis to the table when they're up against Andy freakin' Roddick. I can't tell you how much this annoys me.


YEAH OK, YOU BEAT ME. WHATEVER. First Robby Ginepri, now James Blake. Pretty soon Roddick won't have any more American bitches left in his harem.






I sat back, I watched, now I will trash

Where to being my latest rant? I will start with Mr. Cheetos Breath himself:
"It's not often I've served 77% first serves with one double-fault and gotten broken three times in a two-set match, especially serving with the pace that I was today."

It's not often that a player can serve 77% and I would call it a bad serving day. I certainly am not one to tell Roddick how to play his game but as a fan who watches an awful lot of his matches I can be an observer and this is what I observed: Blake was returning brilliantly and hitting winners off his second serve because Roddick had only two serves at two speeds: down the middle fast and outside wide faster. There weren't many nasty kick serves and where were the body blows? Where were the 77mph puffballs that would've thrown Blake completely off balance? Blake basically had a 50% chance of guessing correctly where Andy was going to serve next and because he knows Roddick's game so well, he was bound to pick most of them correctly.

They even had a funny banter going on about this before they changed ends at 4-3 in the second set when Blake mishit a return:

Andy: "You thought you could hit a winner?" (audience laughs)
James (smiling): "First time I guessed wrong."
Andy: "Well, you turned around and looked so disappointed."
James: "I haven't guessed wrong all day!"


The only person not laughing at this exchange was James' brother and coach, Thomas Blake. Perhaps he thought Andy was trying to bust up James' concentration and rhythm?

Another interesting moment happened between the two friends when Blake hit a drop-shot and Roddick did not even attempt to go for it. Blake was perplexed and stared at Roddick for several seconds as if to say, "What's wrong?" Roddick had looked quickly down at his troubled foot but I think maybe either his shoe just got stuck in the grass or he was wrong-footed. It didn't appear that he had suffered another injury, thankfully.

There was another funny moment when Roddick, looking just a tad desperate, hit the turf twice at 15/30, did a couple of Boris Becker-style rolls, and then dived again but completely missed a bad ball bounce at 15/40...all that dirty effort and he still got broken for 2/3 in second set.

By hitting 140mph average serves one right after another, Roddick was not wearing Blake down. He was, ironically, training Blake to read his serve better.
"I mean, I think a little bit. I mean, like I said, he returned unbelievable today. The way he was hitting the returns, it's not like he was just making them, he was, like I said, taking full cuts at my first serve, which I don't think I've ever had done before. Roger is effective at getting it back in play. But to have someone just tee off on it like that, it hasn't happened. I mean, the eight times I played him before that, it hadn't happened."

Watching Andy's confused playing and reading this passage is reminiscient of his loss to Marcos Baghdatis in the fourth round at AO. Andy made the same mistake then of getting a little too impressed with his opponent's play and worst of all, underestimating his opponent:
Q. Did you have difficulty reading him, those backhands down the line...

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, he was hitting 'em off of inside‑out forehands that I felt like I was putting a pretty good swing on. They just weren't jumping off the court, I mean, that much. I wasn't expecting him to be able to lean in off an inside‑out forehand and hit 'em consistently and down the line. You know, I haven't seen that before. I was surprised at that. [. . .]

I was feeling through the first three rounds that no one could really get a clean swing at the ball I was putting out there ‑ especially my heavy one. And, you know, like we said, he was able to kind of take it early today.

Andy simply must stop doing this. STOP underestimating his opponent; he should go out there and assume his opponent is going to play the match of his life to beat him (ironically enough, many of them have been doing just that); learn to expect the great shots and return winners and then he won't be shocked when it happens and he may be able to adjust better. He is setting himself up for failure each and every time he allows himself to get complacent. 'Oh it's only James, I own him.' Ha, ha. Not any more, Burger Boy. Stop admiring your opponent's shots and winners and focus on your own game. Who cares if Blake or whoever hits the ATP Play of the Year? Let's see him hit that shot five times in a row.


drowning man illustration by Peter Kuper

In Over His Head

Andy had blogged about The Fray being one of his favorite new bands. I couldn't help but notice that his favorite song off their CD must ring true to himself right now:
Over My Head
I never knew
I never knew that everything was falling through.
That everyone I knew was waiting on a queue,
To turn and run when all I needed was the truth.
But that's how its got to be.
It's coming down to nothing more than apathy.
I'd rather run the other way than stay and see
The smoke and who's still standing when it clears.
Everyone knows I'm in
Over my head.

I watch Andy's matches now and I think: how many more wake-up calls will it take before he finally hits the panic button and realizes that he's in deep do-do? Not only has Blake overtaken Andy as the No. 1 American player, but if Andy fails to make the QFs of Wimbledon he will be out of the top ten as well. I'm not a fan of Jimmy Connors but after this latest crash-out, I cannot wait for him to finally jump on board Team Roddick and perform needed brain surgery on our suffering Andy. In all honesty, I don't hold out much hope that Roddick will be able to three-peat as a Wimbledon finalist this year. Not when he had struggled through so many matches last year and barely made it into the final; not when he keeps losing to players he should not be losing to; not when he keeps saying he's doing fine when he clearly is not. The low expectations are necessary, in order to avoid another heart-breaker.

I thought maybe that horrendous loss to Gilles Muller in the first round at USO last year would be the kick in the pants that he's been needing; the last straw to break the camel's back, so to speak. To finally motivate him and get him to really look at himself and his team and start reinventing himself. When will the growing pains end?

Once upon a time, he was a consistently good player; a guaranteed quarterfinalist at least in the majors. But now, this year, he has not won a single title, has not defended any of his previous titles (SAP Open, Queens), and has made only two semifinals and no finals. His last trophy? At the Kooyong exhibition in January, back when he promised he was going to play more aggressively. Again, his mouth was running off talking about things he had no intention of doing. Talk to the hand.

Great performances like the one he had against Fernando Gonzalez are now a rarity and playing badly has become his norm. Nobody fears him anymore. He is not looking like or playing like a top ten player at all. He doesn't even sound like he believes he's a top player anymore. These are very troubling days indeed.

I think Andy has too much of a boy brain: he uses only one side of his brain for the smash-and-grab job and not enough of the other side that could help put together a decent game strategy and get him to think more instead of the fight-or-flight instinct kicking in. It's gotten so that whenever I see him playing as badly as he did yesterday, I feel like I am watching tennis' version of Dumb and Dumber. OK, I laughed when I typed that but in reality, it's really not funny anymore.

* * *
But look! I have videos!

Now that I've thoroughly depressed you with my ranting, here's some good stuff: new photos up in my gallery and new videos on YouTube. I decided to put all five of the "On the Rod" Queens series up so now people can view them all in one place. Also, claire over at ar.com has made a video of Andy's banter with James during the SF that you can download here. The quality of this video is actually better than the BBC's livestream. Thanks, claire!

Yesterday's semifinal so thoroughly depressed me that I had to go watch Andy's great moment at the 2003 US Open just to remind myself what Andy Roddick looks like as a winner. I'm imbedding it here for you.



===================================================
Originally posted June 16, 2006

Gonzalez: Keeper of Andy's Mojo




"I guess it is easier to sit back, watch, and trash."

-- ANDY RODDICK.
Burn this quote into your brain.



QF: Roddick def. Gonzalez 6-4 6-3
R16: Roddick def. Srichaphan 7-6(5) 6-3


What is it about Fernando Gonzalez that brings out the best in Andy? It happened at Davis Cup and it repeated here after Andy had struggled against an unknown first-round qualifier, and then struggled against a player he flat-out owns. But up against someone as dangerous as Gonzalez he suddenly lifts his game, his confidence soars, and it's like 2003 again. It was vintage Roddick at work. Love it.


SHOW SOME RESPECT FOR THE GONZO. He has found Andy's mojo.

And I love Gonzo for it. Yes, I am officially jumping on the Gonzalez fan bandwagon. Something about him brings out Andy's A-game and I've got nothing but respect for that. He is the unofficial Keeper of Andy's Mojo, I am convinced of that now. Andy feeds off of Gonzo's energy or something. I love seeing Andy bullying his opponents around again; love seeing him blast aces again, aggressively stalking every ball, and diving on the grass a la Boris Becker. Said Roddick after the match, “I am happy with my performance. I feel I’ve been right around the corner from playing well and today the recipe was there for something good to happen.” This is what made me a fan of his to begin with. Even the British commentators on the BBC were impressed with Andy today, recklessly throwing around comments like, "Another excellent volley from Andy Roddick," [according to his coach, brother John Roddick, Andy won 13 of 16 points at the net today!]; "This is like vintage Roddick 2003."; and "I would rate Andy's performance today a 10+plus." I couldn't stop smiling. Even the Roddick-bashing Tennis-X coughed up some praise: "Andy Roddick was at his grasscourt best in dispatching the free-swinging No. 6 seed Fernando Gonzalez." Whoa. Stand back from the heat.

Superstitious me, I was a bit concerned that the Power of the Blog would be on Gonzalez's side (since the start of the ATP Blog, most of the bloggers have gone on to win a title). But luckily, Andy has the power of the bopper cheerleader bloggers on his side. ;)

And what was the deal with Andy walking out on court carrying somebody else's bag? ROTFL. Dork Andy at work again. Where is Sue Barker when we need her to ask some necessary questions?

So Andy will next play his friend and lover, James Blake, in an all-American semifinal. Andy is "very hungry" to win a @#$% title already and James is probably very hungry to stop being Andy's bitch all the time. Both feel they have something to prove and will want this win very badly. It should be a tough, erratic, and hopefully very entertaining match. They are scheduled second on court after the Hewitt-Henman match, which should be around 3:00pm local time (11:00am EST). You can watch the live BBC feed here.

Oh, and about that lover part? I was kidding. Sorry for the tease.

Roddick Rockets Through
Andy Roddick raced into the semi-finals at Queen's Club on Friday with a thumping 6-4 6-3 victory over Chile's Fernando Gonzalez. It took the American just over an hour to book a date against compatriot James Blake in the next round with a superb display of grass court tennis.

Roddick, looking to win the title for a fourth year running showed the packed Queen's Club crowd just how to play on grass, crashing 13 aces past his Chilean opponent and more importantly, dropping just seven points on his own serve through the whole match.

It had all started so brightly for Gonzalez, looking solid behind his own delivery and making few mistakes until the eighth game of the opening set.

At this point he was forced to save no less than five break points, the first of the match, as he struggled to even the scores at 4-4.

But save he did, only to finally drop serve when trying to save the set next time round putting a stuttering forehand into the net, and not for the first or last time.

Roddick then immediately broke his man again for a 2-0 lead at the start of the second set and never looked back as he bludgeoned his way to the second set 6-3.

In such impressive form, having obviously put the ankle injury that saw him drop out of the French Open in the first round behind him, it will take a superhuman effort from Blake to stop his progress to yet another final.


===================================================
Originally posted June 15, 2006

Back in the Swing of Things



R32: Roddick def. Dancevic
2-6, 6-4, 6-3


Yes, finally, I uploaded several new pictures from yesterday's match.
Champion Andy Roddick's bid for an unprecedented fourth successive Stella Artois title got off to a stuttering start with a 2-6 6-4 6-3 win over Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic on Wednesday.

Roddick, seeded third, is trying to become the first player to win four straight titles at Queen's. He was on the defensive from the opening set because of Dancevic's powerful serves and consistent returns.

"I felt like I struggled a little bit early," Roddick said. "I wasn't totally comfortable. As the match went on, I played better and better and better."

Dancevic surrendered just four points on serve in the opening set but failed to maintain the pressure in the second. Roddick broke for a 2-1 lead and went on to win the set.

Roddick hit a forehand winner to break for a 4-3 lead in the third set. He closed the match on his fourth attempt, breaking again after Dancevic hit a forehand wide.

"I think the key to the match was once I started making first serve returns and making him play every time," Roddick said. "If he's going to go for broke like that, the more chances I can give him to bust, the better."

Andy's trainer, Doug Spreen, says that the ankle is "holding up well and has not been giving [Andy] any problems." Continued health, Andy!

More videos!

Video of Andy over at the Stella Artois website. The visor has made its appearance again!

So many "On the Rod" videos, I can barely keep track of them all. Here's the latest installment that you can download (if that doesn't work, try this link). BTW, the guy trying to pull Andy's pants off is Thomas Blake, James Blake's older brother. Naughty!

And just for laughs, here's another video I uploaded to YouTube:


===================================================
Originally posted June 13, 2006

Back in the Swing of Things



Jeez, I had a whole new blog entry and new photos ready to put up this week until one of the computers that had my blog stuff on it crashed on me and was taken to the MacHospital. So now I have to start all over again. I feel like somebody threw away my diary or something.


Rain delayed Andy's first-round match with Frank Dancevic today. He'll be up second tomorrow, after the Andy Murray match (btw, Brad Gilbert is denying rumors that he will coach Murray).

Meanwhile, you can entertain yourself by watching this video of Andy and his trainer Doug Spreen looking positively enthralled with the World Cup.

And you can also download the new "On the Rod" video here.

***
I Love YouTube

I've become addicted to YouTube. I love watching random videos and I've been uploading several tennis videos to my own account which you can subscribe to at any time. Here's a few choice videos that are now up:

Andy's bum wiggle
From last year's Wimbledon.


Andy and Andre at Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, 2005


Andy's Sportscenter ad


Andy and Marat Safin at Rally for Relief, 2004


And thanks to the person who uploaded this video of Andy's "squash shot" from 2004 Cincy. Roger Federer hit the exact same shot in his semifinal match with David Nalbandian at the French Open this weekend and typically, the media has been in a frenzy ooh-ing and aahh-ing over Roger's genius. But let's show some respect to the original squash-hitter, please. ;-)

***

Martin def. Roddick 6-4 7-5 1-0 ret.

"It's like 'Groundhog Day'. Whatever I said last year, just copy it. Whatever I said last year, I'm sure it still fits."

-- ANDY RODDICK. The Roland Garros nightmare continues.


*whip crack!*

OK, so I took an *extended* vacation. Vacationing during Roland Garros turned out to be a good decision. I had a feeling Andy might re-injure his foot. The clay is unforgivable! But hopefully that extra time allowed him to fully recover and get reacquainted with his beloved grass.

And boooo! to the French crowd for booing Roddick's retirement. Andy made a difficult but smart decision to retire. The player's health is what matters most, not the fact that you felt you didn't get your money's worth. Like Alberto Martin said, "I don't like that the crowd boos a player. I wouldn't like it to happen to me. We're professionals here. We come to do our jobs. We try to do our best. It's a bit sad that people boo when you're just doing your job."

I have to say, though, that I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Andy had decided not to go back home to Austin and instead, head straight over to London to begin preparing for the grass season. This floors me. Usually, his instinct is go back to the comfort of home whenever he gets the chance. This time he did not do that. Andy, you do us proud!

What rivalry? Nadal beats Federer again

After a nervous start, Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4) to win his second consecutive French Open title. Nadal has now beaten Federer 4 times this year (Federer's only losses) and their head to head stands at 6-1. This rivalry is starting to look as non-existent as the one Andy has with Roger at Wimbledon.

It was ironic to hear the commentators quoting Roddick towards the end of the final: "I'm going to have to start winning some of them [matches] to call it a rivalry." Who would have ever guessed that Roddick's infamous quote would apply to Federer as well?

I don't think either player played their best tennis in the final. How could they relax? There was too much history to make, too much at stake, too many expectations placed on both of them. It's really a shame that their classic five-hour Rome final could not have been the French Open final instead. A match like that seen by millions of people around the world would've been great for tennis. But this deflating final--after the months-long Rafa vs Roger hype--was not good for tennis, IMO.

***
Roddick confirms Jimmy Connors will coach part-time

From ESPN:
After weeks of whispers, Andy Roddick has confirmed that eight-time Grand Slam champion Jimmy Connors will join his entourage.

"I'm genuinely excited about the prospect of working with Jimmy," Roddick said in The Times of London on Friday. Roddick is in London preparing for the Stella Artois Championship that starts next week.

According to a source with first-hand knowledge of the situation who was contacted by ESPN, while talks between Connors and Roddick have escalated, no deal was done as of Friday afternoon. If the deal does go through, it's unlikely Connors would be a part of the Roddick camp at Wimbledon, which starts June 26.


While Connors will be a coach and a consultant, his contributions will be on a part-time basis. Roddick's older brother John will remain his full-time coach.

Roddick has now employed five coaches in just over three years: Tarik Benhabiles, Brad Gilbert, Dean Goldfine, John Roddick and now Connors.

Since retiring after the 1992 season, Connors has kept a low profile. Over the last several years, though, he has been more and more active in the game. Last year he did commentary for the BBC at Wimbledon and was highly visible at the 2005 U.S. Open.

Roddick was the world's No. 1-ranked player in 2003 after winning the U.S. Open, but his ranking has fallen gradually to its present spot, No. 5.

According to Roddick, Connors will focus on helping him prepare for the summer hardcourt season, which culminates with the U.S. Open that begins in late August.

Shout-out to Andy's agent, Ken Meyerson: You're a tool. Next time do your client a favor and don't tell the local media a bald-faced lie by denying you were never in contact with Mr. Connors when you obviously were.

Jackass.

6 comments:

Noelle De Guzman said...

Hooray for grass season! Maybe now we can forget about the yearly washout that is Roland Garros and concentrate on Andy smoking everyone's ass on grass. :D

tangerine said...

LOL Noelle. I like the way you think! :D

Nicky said...

Thanks for those videos. They were ace. Go Andy in London! Pity don't sell coverage on Queen's to North America.

Soo glad Nadal beat Federer again. Go Rafa!

hasina said...

another great blog!!!

Noelle De Guzman said...

Hm, so Andy smoked everyone's ass except for James'...

Anonymous said...

Oh, Andy, Andy, Andy...when will we see you crying tears of joy again? That video only served to depress me as I realized the how far both A-Rod and JCF have sunk.

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