Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What Now, Andy?

Boy, Wimbledon sure is boring without Roddick, isn't it? A huge hole was left when Andy crashed out in the first week and the second week ended up being some kind of weird alternate universe. Rafael Nadal, in his white pirate pants and cut-off t-shirt, in the final on his worst surface on only his third try. Wow.

All Hail Federer But Thank God for Nadal

I would post my thoughts on the Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final except that I have none. I saw the same two players that we've all been seeing for months now. They showed up, they played, somebody won. In the words of one tennis fan named Noelle, "I am seriously bored with the tennis landscape these days."

But American Tennis is Not Dead!

Contrary to the usual media histrionics that greeted the Americans' early departure from Wimbledon, I don't think American tennis dead. Not when the Bryan brothers have just completed their career grand slam by winning the Wimbledon doubles title. Oh sure, none of our singles players made it to the second week but I think our rare bad showing is just a one-off; an aberration. It it happens again next year, then I'll start to worry.

Interestingly enough, another American team also won a Wimbledon title: Kellen Damico and Nathaniel Schnugg captured the boys’ doubles title, beating the No. 2 Slovakian seeds Martin Klizan and Andrej Martin, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 in quite an upset. They celebrated their win by doing a chest bump a la the Bryan brothers! Damico, you'll be interested to know, was actually kicked out of John Roddick's Tennis Academy a few months ago for bad behavior!

And if you missed it, Mike and Bob also had blogging duties for the ATP this week, proving once again the power of the blog. Their blog, like their game, is very entertaining. Congrats to the twins on their win!

In their post-match interview, Bob and Mike mentioned getting a phone call from Andy right after they won:
Q. Any message from your dad?

MIKE BRYAN: Talked to mom.

BOB BRYAN: I haven't talked to anyone. I guess Andy called.

MIKE BRYAN: Yeah, actually, the first three guys that called were Andy, Mardy and James, which was pretty cool. They all watched it back at home. They're excited. Could kind of tell Andy's fired up to get back on the court. Kind of watches it and he wants to be here. And I'm like, What are you playing? He's like, I'm playing everything this summer. I'm playing Indy, LA, Washington. He wants to just beat up the summer.

Q. He took a wildcard into LA?

MIKE BRYAN: Yeah, that's what he said, he's playing all of them.

BOB BRYAN: They're holding one for him.

I think it's great that Andy is anxious to get back out there and win some matches, but saying that he's entering all of the summer tournaments doesn't really mean much; playing all of them is quite another story. I'm sure that if he goes deep into one tournament he will likely skip the next. He always over-schedules.

So it looks like Roddick's next tournament will be the RCA Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, July 15–23. Andy had lost to Robby Ginepri in the quarterfinals last year.

Interesting that Andy called the Bryans from Austin. I guess that back-packing trip through Europe didn't fall through.

* * *
Rankings Watch:
Roddick falls out of the Top Ten for the first time since 2002

As reported by Eurosport:
Andy Roddick fell out of the world's top 10 on Monday for the first time since 2002.

The American, who was beaten by Britain's Andy Murray in the third round of Wimbledon a week ago, fell six places to 11th in the latest list published by men's tennis organisers the ATP.

Not since he was ranked 12th the week of Oct. 28th 2002 had Roddick strayed outside the world's top 10 until Monday.

Runner-up at Wimbledon in 2004 and 2005, Roddick lost a punishing number of rankings points with his third-round loss this year.

The 23-year-old hit the top of the rankings in November 2003 and spent nine weeks as number one.

Another former world number one Lleyton Hewitt also fell out of the top 10, slipping three spots to 12.

Roddick and Hewitt's places in the top 10 were taken by Marcos Baghdatis and Radek Stepanek.

Cypriot semi-finalist Baghdatis jumped six places to number 10 while Czech quarter-finalist Stepanek vaulted five to number eight.

I have to wonder: where exactly is the depth in men's tennis these days? The ATP's top ten looks like what the WTA used to be: one or two dominant players and the rest are a bunch of clowns. Federer and Nadal have separated themselves so far from the pack that everybody else is left scrambling for the crumbs. Nobody ranked 3 through 10 has a slam title to their name and only David Nalbandian has claimed a major title (TMC Shanghai) recently. It's time for everybody else to step it up, please.

* * *
What's wrong with Roddick?

Steve Tignor scribbled down some of his thoughts about Wimbledon and like many other reporters, he offers a gloom-and-doom analysis of the American men's performance, particularly Roddick's:
All anyone at my club wanted to know last week was: What’s wrong with American tennis? I could only reply that it looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better—there really aren’t any sure shots among the juniors right now (though you never know with these things: Roddick was a fairly late-bloomer). My friend Jon Levey pointed out that it’s true in others sports now as well. Major league baseball players are Latin, the NBA is going European; only the NFL remains solidly American. It seems we can train athletes from around the world, we just can’t raise our own to compete at the highest levels anymore. In the case of tennis, many U.S. parents now want their kids to try a lot of sports without having to specialize. Tennis requires mind-bending specialization.

As far the U.S. goes right now, this was an ugly event for Andy Roddick. I think many fans have the words “Jim Courier” on their minds—a lunchbucket player who overachieved and briefly reached No. 1, then came down to earth. The only problem for Roddick is that he didn’t get four Slam titles in, like Courier did, when he was on top. Andy looked severely limited, skill and variety wise, against the other Andy, but that was just one match, and Murray seems to love Roddick’s game—he’s won five straight sets against him. While I think the Courier comparison may be accurate in the long run, and that it’s unlikely Roddick will get back to No. 1 in this lifetime, he does have his favorite part of the season coming up.

What should he try to change? It’s the eternal question of U.S. tennis. The one thing I took away from the Murray match was that Roddick’s shot selection could be better. When Murray pushed him around in a rally, Roddick, particularly on his forehand, tried to drill the ball back or hit a penetrating, long-range crosscourt ball rather than throw in something defensive.

Charles Bricker also lamented Roddick's demise in his Wimbledon blog:
Roddick: 605 Big Ones Coming Off

What now for Andy Roddick, flushed out of Wimbledon before his time?

Before he left here, Andy talked about getting his edge back. But a mere shot of confidence isn't going to do it alone. Until he gets a backhand that does more than merely keep him in the point, he's not going to get back into the top five.

As for the rankings, he's probably going to be out of the top 10 when the new list comes out Monday and, even worse, he has 605 points to defend between now and the U.S. Open -- 50 for a quarterfinal finish at Indianapolis, 200 for winning Washington, five for a first-round loss at the Canadian Open and 350 for a runner-up finish at Cincinnati.

If he doesn't get it together, he'll be close to No. 20 when the Open rolls around. But that's fan stuff right now. Roddick needs not to worry about his ranking, but more about what he needs to do with his game. Get it straightened out and the ranking will take care of itself.

Among the critical questions he faces is coaching. Does he want to continue with big brother John or consider more established coaches, like Darren Cahill (currently with Andre Agassi), Paul Annacone (currently with Tim Henman) or does he want to go back to Tarik Benhabiles, who squired him through his best junior year and through the initial stages of his professional work. If he and John decide to make a change he's got to get out of the coach-a-year syndrome that is contributing to his inconsistency.

He's right about the game being slowed by court speed, bigger balls and, in the case of Wimbledon, more speed-resistent grass. That's tough, but you've got to adjust. And he's not going to adjust well until he is more than just a player with two great weapons (serve and forehand) and a bunch of average other shots.

The backhand is the No. 1 priority. I just don't understand why a professional tennis player can't take an entire off-season to improve one stroke.

I think Andy has reached a crucial stage in his career, but it's not a time to go for a quick fix or panic. It's time to think more long-range. It's no longer critical that he get to the final of the U.S. Open. What's really critical is that he decide what he has to do to get back to the top and stay there, and then stay with the decision. All Roddick fans should demand of their player right now is progress.

I agree with Bricker that the ranking should not be the issue with Team Roddick right now. He just needs to take care of the game, the strategy, and most importantly, the mental aspect, and then the ranking will eventually take care of itself.

Some fans worry that if Andy's ranking keeps sinking lower then he will have to face dangerous opponents in earlier rounds (such as seeing Federer in the quarter- or semifinals as opposed to the final) but this issue is moot because honestly, Andy has been losing to every Tom, Dick, and Harry ranked 20-142 for several months now. He's losing to players he shouldn't be losing to. Everybody has become a "dangerous floater" to Roddick, and if his Team is stupidly focusing on an opponent's rank instead of the player himself then they are only going to shoot themselves in the foot and set Andy up for failure. Anybody on tour is more than capable of playing out-of-their-mind tennis one day and beating anybody on any given day. And Andy's been getting beaten on far too many of these days.

In fact, Andy has not beaten a top ten player since August of last year. I don't think this is because people have "figured out" his game, as many of his critics believe. I think a large part of Roddick's slump is because Roddick himself does not believe in his game anymore and he does not trust his instincts. If you don't trust your own game out there, I don't care if you're a mutant form of Sampras-Borg-Federer-Laver, you are going to lose. A lot. Roddick is beating himself out there.

I've always felt that, since Andy can't beat Federer in a final, perhaps meeting him in an earlier round might be better. However, unlike Andy's critics, Federer does not take Roddick for granted and he likely would prepare himself for an onslaught should he find himself facing Roddick in a quarterfinal. But as many players not named Nadal have learned: if you're going to strike against Federer, the best time to get him is in the earlier rounds when he's kind of on cruise-control, a little rusty, and not as likely to be as mentally sharp. It's not a given, obviously, and the theory could prove totally false, but as I said before: it's not working in the finals, so maybe it could work in the fourth round?

One match-up on hardcourts I'm dying to see again soon: Roddick vs Nadal. Their last hardcourt match was in the second round at the 2004 USO where Roddick annihilated Nadal, 6-0 6-3 6-4. A few months later, Nadal got his revenge and beat Roddick in the Davis Cup final in Spain on clay. I'm still impressed that Andy managed to grab a set off of Nadal that day. Of course, this was just before Nadal announced himself to the world that he was going to be the new Tennis King but it was right on the cusp and it was still an all-around impressive match.

Damn, now I'm getting all nostalgic again just thinking of Andy at the 2004 USO. For those of us who were watching him then, USO 2004 is when Roddick's mental slide began but during that Nadal match, Andy was in full Roddick-power glory. I Must. Watch. The tape. Again...

FoxSports offers up an interesting list of "What we learned from Wimbledon 2006". Here's the Roddick-related stuff:
8. American tennis is having a down period.
Just a year ago, Venus Williams won Wimbledon and Andy Roddick was runner- up to Federer for the second straight time. The 26-year-old Williams has been hampered by injuries, and it's unclear how motivated she is to get back to the top. After nearly 10 years on tour, she may have had enough. The same may be true of her little sister Serena.

Roddick, 23, has lost some confidence. His biggest issue may be finding the right coach. But Roddick is young enough to come back. James Blake, 26, was very disappointing in his third-round loss to Max Mirnyi, winning only one game in the final two sets. Blake may just not have enough confidence and will to capture a major crown.

9. The men's field lacks depth.
Federer and Nadal currently have no obvious challenger s. Baghdatis may grow into a formidable competitor against them. And Andy Roddick could rebound to offer them some resistance . Marat Safin would worry the Big Two if he was healthy and truly committed to his tennis. But it's been 18 months since he was a real threat, so it's unlikely he'll re-emerge at the top.

Lleyton Hewitt has probably peaked. Federer and Nadal's games appear too big for him. David Nalbandian reached the final of Wimbledon in 2002, but his game and intestinal fortitude are more limited than Federer or Nadal's. Ivan Ljubicic doesn't look ready for primetime.

* * *
What's up with the Jimmy Connors story?

I have been e-mailing Charles Bricker of the Florida Sun-Sentinal about the rumor that Roddick plans to hire Jimmy Connors as a part-time coach and, after Andy's jerk agent Ken Meyerson gave Bricker the runaround, Bricker finally spoke to Roddick himself and confirmed that Roddick and Connors are "just talking" right now and nothing is set in concrete:

Roddick-Connors: Getting It Straight
Spoke with Andy Roddick here to get the Jimmy Connors rumors straight and here's what it's all about:

Connors is not, as one of the London papers suggested, coming in to be Andy's "coach." Roddick wants Connors to come in and train with him for a few days so that he can feed off Connors' intensity and sense of how to handle certain court situations. Connors has a lot of wisdom to impart and Roddick wants to hear it. And it could make similar requests to other former pros as well.

Jimmy would be more of a consultant than a coach. His role would be akin to what large corporations do in bringing in outsiders with expertise to impart to their top managers.

Nothing, Roddick made it clear, is set in concrete. All they've done in a phone conversation is to decide to sit down and talk sometime during or right after Wimbledon.

Connors has no desire to leave his family to hit the road as a more or less full-time assistant coach alongside Roddick's brother, John.

Meanwhile, John and Andy feel very comfortable with their coaching arrangement and, though things change quickly in this game, it wouldn't be surprising if they continue working together into 2007 as coach.

I'm glad that Mr. Bricker was finally able to clear this up. Many people are still under the impression that Connors has been/will be hired as an actual coach which, we know now, does not appear to be the intention.

* * *
Andy's new RED American Express promotion

As reported by AndyRoddick.com:
Andy and American Express team up for charity with the launch of AMERICAN EXPRESS RED in the United Kingdom. Andy joins celebrity ambassador U2’s front man and philanthropist Bono in the campaign.

American Express RED is a new credit card that helps fight AIDS in Africa. American Express is committing up to 1.25% of every pound charged with a (RED) card to the Global Fund. Since its inception in 2002, the Global Fund has committed over $4.5 billion to life-saving programs in 130 countries and accounts for a quarter of the world’s funding for AIDS programs in the developing world.

“If you’re going to have a credit card anyway you may as well get one that helps out,” Andy encourages others to support the campaign. (Not available in the US).

American Express’s RED Website

Nice-looking campaign but the goofy hairdo makes him look like the Ed Grimly character from "Saturday Night Live."

ED GRIMLY SAYS: "Fire it up!!! For my new RED Amex card."

In more pressing news, I'm wondering why Andy hasn't updated his blog in over a month now?

* * *
"Saturday Night Live" video clips available

Speaking of "Saturday Night Live", I needed a laugh so me and some other fans put together some video clips of Andy's hosting duties from "Saturday Night Live" a few years back. My favorite skit is "Jock Talk". Cracks me up every time I watch it. FIRE IT UP!!!!

"Jock Talk" - muscleheads talk show

"Battle of the Sexes Part II" - Andy vs Billie Jean King!

"The Governess" - Andy gets a babysitter

Richard Williams (Serena and Venus's dad) tries to adopt Andy Roddick

"Merv the Perv" - Andy plays a sexy gynecologist!

And this is the new funny US Open Series ad that somebody over at YouTube put up. What are the players bringing to the US hardcourts this summer? Well, Nadal is bringing "his guns", Blake is bringing his headband, but what's Andy bringing? How about some game? We would like to see some of that again soon.


Noelle De Guzman said...

Aww, you quoted me! :D Seriously, I just could not get excited over the prospect of seeing Federer and Nadal face off in another final. Fedtards can call me a bad tennis fan all they want; I need fiber in my diet and depth in the men's field!

Is Andy sporting the faux-hawk again in that AmEx Red ad? I think it might be his lucky hairstyle, but it'll take more than luck to get Andy back on his feet again. As the Jock Talk skit (my favorite!) says, Andy needs to "FIRE IT UP!"

tangerine said...

Hi Noelle! *hug* I agree. I'm glad somebody like Nadal finally stepped up to give Roger some competition but now it's domination by two people instead of one, which after a while becomes just as boring. LOL.

Here's hoping some of the other guys finally step up to accept their challenge, Andy especially. Fire it up!!!!!! :p

.sg said...

Sorry Tang. I love the info but sheesh!
Roddick is way overrated. it's only because he a cutey boy that anyone really cares, right?

I always say that I am not a american tennis fan -- i'm a fan of tennis in general. the two best players are separating themselves from the rest.

their contrasting styles make for some great matches. see you in NYC for the open!

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