Wednesday, August 30, 2006

US Open: Andy, You're A Star

Updated September 16, 2006

JUST ADDED!
Click on the links to see Andy in this week's People magazine!



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DOWNLOAD Andy and Andre on the Ellen Degeneres show here.

DOWNLOAD Andy's oncourt interview after defeating Lleyton Hewitt (QF) here.

WATCH Andy being his silly self:


Who's That Girl Again?
The blonde girl we noticed back in June is back in the stands again. This girl still suffers the paparazzi indignation of having no name. Even the brunette was given the alias of "J.J." Maybe we should start naming Roddick's would-be girlfriends by number? "Roddick blonde tramp no. 18..." j/k ;-)


Title: Andy Roddick's Girlfriend watches him in action during his Semi finals victory today. Roddick will now play Roger Federer from Switzerland tomorrow in the finals of The 2006 U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Photo by Ron C. Angle.






Speaking of tramps, what's up with Roddickpova?


Tennis star Maria Sharapova leaving dinner where she dined with fellow tennis star Andy Roddick and a group of friends at Campagnola on the Upper East Side in New York City. Andy Roddick with at least two guys arrived at 8:10pm. They waited an hour for Maria and her friends to arrive. When Maria arrived around 9:10pm no more than ten minutes later at 9:20pm Andy Roddick is seen leaving the restaurant by himself then two friends catch up with him down the block. Maria leaves the restaurant with two guy friends at around 10:10pm, they all jump in a cab and head uptown.

And some more gossip from The New York Daily News:
RANDY ANDY Gossipeuse Ben Widdicombe of the New York Daily News says, "Tennis hunk Andy Roddick has a sense of humor about the gossip columns. Last week, he was laughing with pals in the Lacoste suite at the U.S. Open about rumors of his romance with Maria Sharapova. 'Isn't it amazing how much press you can get about something that isn't true?' Roddick said. 'Except why are they calling us "Roddicova"? Why not "Sharadick"?'" Nice, Andy. In what has become known as Roddick's "carousel of coaches," the tennis star fired his coach, Dean Goldfine, in February for whatever reasons. Goldfine did Roddick no PR favors, as evidenced in an old column by Charlie Bricker in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Bricker wrote, "I asked Dean Goldfine, Andy Roddick's new coach, to tell me one thing he learned about Roddick that he didn't know before they connected in December. Goldfine, who had known Roddick only casually, immediately identified Roddick's appreciation of other people. 'Even if it's something as simple as just getting him a drink, he thanks you and let's you know how much he appreciates it.'" Gulp.

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JUST ADDED!
My Last Thoughts On USO
The US Open's new blue courts are awesome. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing but you can see the ball clearly. Thumbs up, USTA..........Lasting Images from the USO That Have Been Burned Into My Brain: the Andre Agassi show, starting from his first match with Pavel and ending with his tearful retirement in the third round to a three minute standing ovation. A seminal moment in tennis history........Mikhail Youzhny, smiling wildly and giving the Russian salute to the underdog-loving crowd after defeating Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals .........Cheating Chiquita: Maria Sharapova's father Yuri holding up a banana and pointing at it, imploring Maria to eat one NOW. Maria the dutiful daughter complied........watching the young Marcos Baghdatis cramp against old man Agassi..........the raucous enthusiasm of the USO crowds who help to create such electrifying night matches.........James Blake saluting Andre Agassi by dressing in one of Agassi's vintage pink and black Nike outfits...........Andy Roddick also saluting Agassi by bowing to all four corners after his third round match..........Marat Safin arguing with the chair umpire that Hawkeye's advanced computer technology is all wrong ...........Best USO news headline: "Youz the Man" after Mikhail's stunning upset of Rafael Nadal.

Rambling Thoughts After USO: USO is now officially a stormier slam than Wimbledon, subject to monsoons and hurricanes and wreaking havoc on the play schedule and testing player's patience ..........is Tommy Haas one of the unluckiest players on tour today? I hope 2007 works out better for him..........Nikolay Davydenko could make the finals of all four slams in the same year and he would still be flying under the radar, ignored and invisible ..........Tough Love: having a sublime, beautiful tennis game and being an all-around nice guy isn't enough to win the USO crowd's love these days ..........watching John McEnroe watching Jimmy Connors watching Andy Roddick reminds me that there aren't enough great assholes in tennis these days..........I can't understand a word Rafael Nadal says but I could listen to him speak Spanglish all day long..........ditto Richard Gasquet's Francglish..........after finally making good on her promise and winning the USO title, Maria Sharapova is no longer an overrated one-slam wonder. Now she's a two-slam wonder who cheats. Watch her end up on the cover of Sports Illustrated again ..........Roger Federer is the first man in the Open Era to win both Wimbledon and the USO three years in a row. The chances of him appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Zero..........Andy Roddick has now made a slam final at least once every year in the past four years. Roger Federer is the only other player to do that.........who would you rather have sitting in your player's box: the disinterested stony gaze of Tiger Woods or the I'm-tearing-my-gray-hair-out-I-can't-take-this-kind-of-stress Jimmy Connors?..........to the guy who yelled out to Roddick during final: "We still love you, Andy!" you rock..........to the guy who kept yelling "Break him!" while Roddick was serving, STFU..........If you were wondering what was all that annoying white noise was going on in the background during matches it was just John McEnroe and Ted Robinson prattling on and on...and on and on and on ...........Richard Gasquet may have finally shed the "gutless heart" stigma that he's been criticized for having in the past. I'll bet his match vs. Hewitt will prove to be another small turning point for him in his young career.........Is Andy Murray really as weak as he looks or is that just an act? Brad Gilbert has his work cut out for him. If only Murray could get his fitness in order he could tear up the courts next year ..........Martina Hingis must be wondering: what good is a comeback if you can't back it up with results? I hope Ms. Hingis learns to stop underestimating her opponents..........Shocking fact of the week: Mikhail Youzhny actually reads books!..........Fernando Verdasco proved that just having the game to play outstanding tennis isn't enough to win, you need the heart and the nerve as well..........It's been two years since Fernando Gonzalez won a gold (doubles) and bronze (singles) medal at the summer Olympics. Will he ever get his breakthrough win at a major?..........I've come to the conclusion that Roger Federer's shot-making genius can be overrated at times. Has anyone noticed that many of his incredible shots are actually miss hits? Check out that return "drop shot" winner he made against James Blake..........two Russians came out of nowhere and ended up in the USO semifinals. The odds of the USA pulling off an upset at Davis Cup later this month just got worse..........Is Marat Safin a Russian version of David Nalbandian or is Nalbandian an Argentine version of Safin?..........will somebody please lock Tracy Austin into the back trunk of a Cadillac while tennis matches are being played?..........Nike/IMG marketing genius: Golf is hugely popular here so I think it's a great way to get the casual American sports fans to learn more about Roger Federer by comparing him to one of our most recognizable sports figures, Tiger Woods. But it's kinda sad that a guy who's won USO for three years straight would need the help of Woods to up his Q rating here..........and finally, the US Open trophy has to be the most huggable slam trophy around. So loveable!

COMMENT ON THIS POST
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Originally posted September 11, 2006

"I liked his attitude. I liked his guts. I like a kid who's not afraid to get in there and mix it up - win, lose or draw - and who's not afraid to put his reputation and his game on the line every time."

— JIMMY CONNORS on Andy Roddick.
Jimmy Connors is the life.


Final: Federer def Roddick 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1

Sometimes I have a hard time updating this blog on time when my happy head is still spinning. I'll have more updates tomorrow. To summarize how I'm feeling right now: I'm very proud to be a fan of a player as gutsy and inspiring as Andy Roddick.

To summarize my other feeling: I love Jimmy Connors.

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Rankings Watch
Andy Roddick is once again the No. 1 ranked American!

He moved up four places to No. 6 in the ATP rankings race, leap frogging over James Blake at No. 8, and looks to be in great shape to qualify for the YE Shanghai Masters Cup. Congrats, Andy!

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TV Ratings Watch
Federer-Roddick dips from last year's Federer-Agassi rating
No one draws TV viewers to tennis like Andre Agassi.

Roger Federer's four-set victory over Andy Roddick in the U.S. Open final Sunday drew a 4.1 rating on CBS -- a 15 percent decrease from last year, when Federer beat Agassi in the tournament's championship match.

This year's final did draw higher ratings than in 2003 (3.5 for Roddick vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero) and 2004 (2.5 for Federer vs. Hewitt).

The highest-rated U.S. Open final in the last 15 years also involved Agassi: In 2002, his loss to Pete Sampras drew a 6.2 rating.

And Agassi's first-round victory this year at Flushing Meadows -- in his final pro tournament -- helped USA Network earn its highest opening-night TV ratings in 23 years of airing the Open.

The women's final Saturday night, in which Maria Sharapova beat Justine Henin-Hardenne, had a 3.2 rating on CBS. That was a 3 percent increase over last year (Kim Clijsters vs. Mary Pierce) and a 28 percent hike over 2004 (Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Elena Dementieva).

Also, the U.S. Tennis Association announced Monday that ticket sales over the two-week tournament reached a record high, and attendance was about 640,000, second in event history to last year's nearly 660,000.

Some conflicting info here about the ratings:
This year's U.S. Open women's singles championship match, which Maria Sharapova beat Justine Henin-Hardenne, rated 10 percent higher than the 2005 finals with 10.8 viewers. The 2005 final — when Kim Clijsters beat Mary Pierce — mustered 9.8 million. The men's final match dropped five percent. An estimated 18.1 million watched all or part of the Roger Federer-Andy Roddick match. Federer beat Andre Agassi in the 2005 final when 19.1 million watched. All together, CBS estimates 63.5 million viewers watched its coverage, including the daily weeknight late results show, up two percent from 2005's coverage.

This is one reason why American tennis will be dire straights now that Andre Agassi has retired. Agassi transcended tennis and was America's most recognizable athlete—a phenominal feat considering the lack of interest tennis generates here. Like the Williams sisters, he brought in the fans, the ratings, and the money when he played. Now, it'll be up to Roddick and James Blake to rescue tennis from total oblivion here in the states. Their shining performances at US Open these past two weeks was a good start. May they continue to build on their success.

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DOWNLOAD video highlights from the USO final here and here.

And because some of you have been requesting these and I no longer have a photo gallery to keep up: SNL videos! Fire it up!!!!

DOWNLOAD Andy's opening monologue here.

DOWNLOAD the "Jock Talk" skit here.

DOWNLOAD the "Battle of the Sexes Part II" here.

DOWNLOAD "The Governess" here.

COMMENT ON THIS POST
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Updated September 10, 2006

US Open: Andy, You're A Star




SF: Roddick def Youzhny
6-7 (5), 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-3




Wow, is about all I can muster right now. Andy Roddick has surpassed all my expectations, and more. Who would've thought— after crashing out in the first round of his best slam last year, losing his mojo in the process and becoming the butt of jokes everywhere, struggling through such an annus horribilis, being written off as a "has been" at the ripe old age of 23—that within a matter of days he would come roaring back, winning the Cincinnati title and is now in his first grand slam final of the year? The smile on my face hasn't left since the Hewitt match.

Lesser beings would've been crushed under such enormous pressures. I cannot be more pleased with how Roddick has managed to save his entire year in only a few weeks. For the first time in a long, long while, I feel at peace with Roddick's game and with his mindset and where he's going. I'm sure Roddick feels the same way about himself.

Tonight, this is your house, Andy. Give 'em hell.

News:
- Final Exam: Roddick faces toughest test yet.

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Updated September 6, 2006

Andy, You're A Star




QF: Roddick def Hewitt
6-3 7-5 6-4 !!!




On the field I remember you were incredible
Hey shut up, hey shut up, yeah
On the field I remember you were incredible
Hey shut up, hey shut up, yeah
On the match with the boys, you think you're all alone
With the pain that you drain from love
In a car with a girl, promise me she's not your world
Cause Andy, you're a star


Wow. His first win over Hewitt at a slam. In straight sets, no less! Hewitt's days of dominating Roddick are finally over.

I'm so freaking happy I can't see straight. I'm putting on my Funface.

Some videos for you. Enjoy!

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JUST ADDED FOR THE HECK OF IT
DOWNLOAD video highlights from the Federer/Blake match here.

DOWNLOAD Roddick/Hewitt match highlights here.

DOWNLOAD Roddick's reaction and oncourt interview here.

DOWNLOAD video of Andy and Andre from "The Ellen Degeneres Show" here.

DOWNLOAD video of Andy's interview with Al Trautwig here.

DOWNLOAD video of Andy on "Insider" here.

News:
DON'T HAVE NYT SELECT? NO PROBLEM!
- Click on these links to read the Selena Roberts article:


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- READ Andy's post-match (def. Hewitt) interview here.
- SI.com: Got his mojo workin'.
- Miami Herald: Resurgence may be sign of things to come for Roddick.
- Houston Chronicle blog: Connors brings out "new" Roddick.
- Sportinglife.com: Roddick back to his best.
- NY Daily News: Facing old nemesis, "new Roddick" charges into semis.
- LA Times: Roddick screams into the semis.
- CBS Sportsline: Don't tag and bag American tennis just yet.

A List of Some Very Good US Open Blogs to Read While You're On Your Lunchbreak:
The New Republic USO blog
The New York Times USO blog
Charles Bricker's weblog
Houston Chronicle blog
Jim Courier's Houston Chronicle USO blog
San Francisco Gate blog
The New York Daily news USO blog
Charles Elmore's Palm Beach Post USO blog
The AP USO blog
Jon Wertheim's SI updates

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Updated September 6, 2006

US Open: It's Roddick vs PONG. For Real This Time.




R4: Roddick def Becker 6-3, 6-4, 6-3

OK, Andy, that's it for you. No more Get Out of Jail Free cards are left to use. No more lollygagging around, no more playing "just good enough" to get by. It's Game Time now. With Lleyton Hewitt, it'll be Roddick vs PONG come to life, and you need to really up your game, Cincy-style. Remember: Hewitt loves playing you. Did you see that shit-eating grin on his face when he was asked about you? "It should be fun," he smirked. He loves playing you with the American crowd cheering you on. He feeds off of their energy and he feeds off of the pace of your balls and your subsequent frustration and meltdowns. You are winless against Hewitt in slam matches. Just remember what you learned last year at Cincinnati. You can and will beat Hewitt, just do it!


Quarterfinal: Roddick vs Hewitt Preview
Hewitt leads 6-2 over Roddick. Personally, I think this match is 50-50. A lot will depend on how Roddick comes out playing and how confident he feels because Hewitt is not going to change his winning formula against him. Hewitt is the human version of PONG: he gets everything back. He does not panic. You cannot serve him off the court. Roddick has little patience with retrievers who can rally all day long and this has always been one of his biggest weaknesses. Roddick's best bet is to keep varying his serves to throw Hewitt off his rhythm and to not give him any pace to play with. He should venture to the net only when he's serving, otherwise Hewitt will simply lob him, and Hewitt has the best lob in the business. It is also imperative that Roddick figure out a way to break Hewitt, otherwise he will lose the inevitable tiebreak, which is nothing more than a test of nerves, and Hewitt is nervier than Roddick. It's a tough match-up for Andy, but it's winnable. A win over Hewitt here would be tremendous for his confidence and self-belief, and the fear factor in the locker room would return.

Here's Matthew Cronin's preview:

ANDY RODDICK has passed one major and three minor tests en route to this quarterfinal match-up with one of his nemesis', LLEYTON HEWITT. Fernando Verdasco was the only player in Roddick's path who gave him a lot of trouble, and the American passed that fifth-set test with flying colors. But that's a pop quiz, while Hewitt will be an exit exam that he's been preparing for a very long time.

Their first major confrontation came here in 2001, when Roddick was a babe in the woods and was schooled in the fifth set in a riotous quarter. Their second major confrontation came at the 2005 Australian Open, when Hewitt and crowd screamed toward the American all night long in a fourth-set win for Lleyton. They have also played in four U.S.-based Masters Series tournaments on hard courts, with Hewitt winning the first three and Roddick grabbing a critical win at 2005 Cincinnati (Roddick's only other victory over the Aussie came at '04 Queens on grass).

Former US Open champ Hewitt troubles Roddick for two primary reasons: he kills him in crosscourt backhand rallies and he returns his serve beautifully. Hewitt is also quite fast and is still one of the best counterpunchers on tour. Even though Roddick has a much better forehand and serve, he has trouble hitting through him. Both men have improved their all-around games in the past two years, but have been stymied by the Federer-Nadal express.


THE HUMAN PONG. Roddick's nemesis Lleyton Hewitt leads in their h/t/h 6-2.

Roddick and Hewitt play with equal fire and grit and aren't exactly good buddies. There will be no love lost in this match up between two snarling men in bent baseball caps, and it is sure to be one of the most tense and loudest contests so far at the Open. The key for Roddick will be whether he can successfully mix up his serves and get into the net behind well-placed approach shots. Hewitt loves a target and that's what Andy is going to give him, so Roddick has to put away his volleys.

This is a tricky match up for Roddick because he must play aggressive, but he also can't give away points. He walks a very fine line against Hewitt, who still believes he's a better player than the American is. As always, Hewitt is in great form here, and while I could see Mr. Five-Setter pulling out another dramatic win, Andy is due for a huge win at a Slam over him and will take Hewitt down in four sets.

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Random Thoughts of the Day
I enjoyed watching Andy's first and former coach, Tarik Benhabiles look totally resigned to the fact that his new charge, Benjamin Becker, was getting his ass handed back to him in pieces by Roddick. It reminded me of the same "there's no way my guy is going to win this" look on Brad Gilbert's face when his new charge, Andy Murray, lost to Roddick at Cincy. These men would know who the true champion is. Fire it up!..........This hasn't happened in quite a while: all four previous US Open champions are now into the second week: Federer, Hewitt, Roddick, and Safin. Throw Nadal in there and this is what the REAL Top Five should look like..........After the Andre Agassi Show ended last week does anybody else feel kind of empty and tired? Gutted, perhaps? Not even the media seems anxious to get back to their regularly scheduled Federer/Nadal rivalry hype. Talk about an emotional vacuum..........The Williams/Mauresmo match was the first decent women's match I'd seen all week. Okay, Kuznetsova/Jankovic was good, too. Well done, girls..........How many of you jumped on the Richard Gasquet bandwagon after watching his fourth round match vs Hewitt the other night? Nobody will hold it against you, I promise..........Both the Roddick-hating Tennis-X and Matthew "Andy-is-nothing-special" Cronin suddenly seem to think that Roddick has the edge over Hewitt in tonight's quarterfinal. I don't know about you guys, but I get nervous whenever these two sources start naming Roddick as a favorite to win over his nemesis.........U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe has announced that Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers will face Russia (Davydenko, Youzhny, Safin, and Tursunov) in the semifinals at the end of September. Russia has chosen clay, of course. Russia is obviously banking on the USA sucking worse on clay than they do.........After a day's rain delay, Andy Murray lost to Nikolay Davydenko, eating up a bagel in the fourth set. So, how's that Brad Gilbert guru coaching thing going? Was that money well spent, LTA? And how much more verbal abuse is Gilbert going to take from this 19 year old wanker? Grow up, Andy..........Andy Roddick laughs about the Rodapova rumors but wonders why the media calls them Rodapova? "What's wrong with Sharadick?" he asked. Sharadick must appeal to his dirty frat boy sense of humor, as it does mine. Heh..........So I downloaded the "Hey, it's Andy Roddick" song, listened to it three times, and now I've had it stuck in my head all morning. Thanks for the earworm, Binge..........Roger Federer's plea to the USTA that he'll never say aloud but we all know he's thinking it: Now that Agassi's gone, do you guys think you could give me a decent start time and a bigger court to play on?..........Andy Roddick is the first American male to move into the quarterfinals of a slam all year. No wonder some people think American tennis is dead. Yikes..........With cash cow Andre Agassi gone, American tennis will be in a lot more trouble now. Check out these numbers: USA Network ratings were up 57% through Thursday (first four days) with the Agassi-Baghdatis match on Thursday night equaling USA Network’s highest rating in four years. USA Network earned its best Opening Night rating in its 23 years of US Open coverage. CBS Sports’ rating of 3.0 on Sunday, September 3, was the highest rating for a first weekend Sunday since 1990. The rating was a 30% increase over 2005 and peaked at a 4.3 from 2 pm to 2:30 pm. There's a good reason why he was known as the Las Vegas showman..........Note to the clueless media (i.e., Selena Roberts of the New York Times): Stop "reporting" on Roddick's screams and fistpumps as though they were some new dimension just added to his game, and 100% Connors-influenced. Roddick's been noisy for years, long before Jimbo joined the team. Just ask Ivan Ljubicic.

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Random Tidbit of the Day
Here's another funny anecdote about Roddick from the AP Blog:
Apparently Andy Roddick isn't on board with the commercialization of sports.

While waiting to take questions at a news conference following his 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Bejamin Becker on Monday, Roddick's gaze fell upon a conspicuously placed bottle of Evian water in front of him.

"I don't know about you guys, do you think this is product placement?" he asked with a smile.

Then he took off his hat and draped it over the top of the bottle, obscuring the bottle's label with the "L" for Lacoste on his cap.

A reporter noted that Roddick himself was engaging in product placement of a sort, to which he replied: "I could just be calling myself a loser, too."

Roddick is no dummy, though. By the time the news conference started in earnest, cameras sending the scene across the world, the hat with the sponsor's logo was perched on his head and the water bottle's label was back in full view.

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NEW!
DOWNLOAD video of Andy and Andre from "The Ellen Degeneres Show" here.

DOWNLOAD video of Andy on "Insider" here.

DOWNLOAD video of Andy's interview with Al Trautwig here.

News:
- US Open Notebook: Roddick may have the edge this time.
- SI.com: Hewitt vs Roddick, who will win?
- USA Today: Fun connects Roddick and Connors.
- Newsday: Searching for the next Andre.
- ESPN: Former champions quietly moving through draw.

COMMENT ON THIS POST
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Updated September 4, 2006

Tropical Storm Andy



"Thanks for teaching me."

— ANDY RODDICK to Andre Agassi
when he retired.



R3: Roddick def Verdasco 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-2

Roddick has been downgraded from a category 3 Hurricane to a harmless Tropical Storm.

Another day, another hiccup from Roddick. He can thank Verdasco for his 65 unforced errors and general all-around inconsistency and mental weakness for this win because Roddick sure didn't step up to take this match until late in the fifth set. Verdasco outplayed Roddick from the very beginning. We were watching the pre-Connors nightmare Andy all over again: passive, uninvolved, and reduced to being nothing more than a retriever for most of the match while Verdasco's forehand winners continued to wizz by. Roddick's forehand is still MIA. Even Jimmy Connors looked positively relieved when Verdasco dumped an overhead into the net in the fourth set, that's how tense it was.


NO. I HAVEN'T SEEN IT. HAVE YOU?

Roddick later admitted that he was emotionally spent after watching Andre Agassi's last match vs. Benjamin Becker and found it difficult to get into the competitive mindset. This is understandable but I hope it's a one-off. He can't keep playing this badly. Even against Becker, who also has a big serve, and fellow big servers tend to trouble Roddick.

Did you notice that Roddick bowed (but not kissed) to the four corners after his match? This is the first time I'd seen Roddick do that. I interpreted the gesture as his own homage to Andre Agassi, which I thought was really sweet. Andy and James and the rest of the American boys are well aware of the big shoes they have to fill now. There is no more Agassi safety net for them, no more safe cushioning between them and the media. "Now it's time for us to step up," Roddick said. "That cushion isn't there. My training wheels are gone. I'm sure it's gonna be a little different. But it's an exciting prospect, as well."

Preview of the Roddick-Becker fourth round match:
From Matthew Cronin: Will ANDY RODDICK get a measure of revenge for the American public over BENJAMIN BECKER for his ending the legendary Andre Agassi’s career? You bet he will, and then some. Roddick had to raise his level when the chips were down in the fifth set against Fernando Verdasco and stood up to the challenge, and Verdasco is significantly better player than Becker. Yes, the German has a good serve, but he won’t hurt Roddick off the ground and will have tremendous trouble returning his serve. Roddick in straight sets.

From Mark Preston: Germany’s Bejamin Becker hardly figured as the man who would put an end to the grand career of Andre Agassi. Before yesterday, Becker’s greatest achievements were at the collegiate level. But the three-time All-American and 2004 NCAA Champion at Baylor brought a big game and an even larger dose of determination to his meeting with the legend, and in winning, graduated to a higher level of achievement and respect. Yes, Agassi was hurting, but Becker only heightened the hurt, serving huge, moving well, creating opportunities and showcasing an explosive ground game. His 27 aces in the match were more than a bit reminiscent of that other—slightly better known—Becker. His reward for all that is a faceoff with No. 9 seed Andy Roddick, who has played his way through the first half of this Flushing fortnight with an intensity and a resolve that suggest he’s very much a contender for a second-Sunday showing. Roddick, this year’s US Open Series champ, will pocket a cool $1 million bonus should he take home a title from here, but more, the 2003 US Open champ can re-establish himself as a potent Slam force with a return to the winner’s circle. Importantly, Roddick again believes he belongs. That’s bad news for Becker. In four, Roddick is on to the quarters.

UPDATED!
News:
- READ Roddick's post-match interview (def. Becker) here.
- READ Roddick's other post-match interview (def. Verdasco) where he rips on Matthew Cronin here.
- The Mercury News: Resurgent Roddick back in the thick of things.
- The Sydney Morning Herald: With Connors in Roddick's corner, Hewitt has work cut out for him.
- usopen.org match report: Will Andy Roddick become the new Andre Agassi?
- ATP.com: Andy Roddick is the Mercedes Benz Play of the Week.
- ESPN: How would Roddick have handled facing Agassi?
- LA Daily News: Roddick survives scare but moves on.
- Fox Sports: US players will be hard-pressed to fill Agassi's void.


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Musings from Day Seven at USO

My first tennis crush, the man who got me interested in tennis in the first place, Andre Agassi, lost to Benjamin Becker and retired yesterday. Not only is this the official end of the Sampras-Agassi Era but I feel like my childhood also officially ended. Thanks for 21 years of memorable tennis, Andre. You will be greatly missed.........It's a strange irony that 36-year-old Agassi's body with the bad back held up better than 21-year-old Marcos Baghdatis during their five-set match. Andrei Pavel became ill during his first-round match with Agassi, and Benjamin Becker also began to cramp toward the end of his match with Agassi. Was Agassi poisioning all of these guys? Or maybe the young 'uns need to get in shape..........The crowd worked him over a bit but I guarantee you that Marcos Baghdatis walked away from his second round match with Andre Agassi with more new American fans in his pocket than any other foreign player. He will be an American fan favorite in the future, mark my words..........How awesome was it that at the end of the Agassi/Becker match, the crowd of about 20,000 stood and applauded Agassi for several minutes? Hard to imagine any of today's young players getting that kind of reception when they retire..........Roddick admitted that he was in an emotional vacuum after watching the Agassi/Becker match and couldn't concentrate on his match vs Verdasco..........Andy Murray also couldn't concentrate on his match after witnessing Agassi's loss: "Today was one of the saddest days I've had in tennis. Twenty minutes before I went on, I saw Agassi play his last match and I was genuinely upset. I didn't realise how much he meant to the whole of tennis and to me until I saw him play his last point."..........CBS reported that Agassi's last USO match/retirement was the highest US Open ratings they've had in 15 years!..........Quick: name the guy who sent Jimmy Connors into retirement 13 years ago. That's exactly where Benjamin Becker is headed..........Yes, I'm bitter. Becker cheated us of a blockbuster Agassi-Roddick match..........Roddick had mixed feelings about the prospect of playing Andre Agassi on Monday: "Obviously, you want to play against your idols, but then again you don't want to be the guy who shot Bambi."..........It was fun to see Roddick do the Nadal-like scissor kick when he broke Verdasco in the fourth set. Vamos, Andy!..........You gotta read Roddick's post-match interview yesterday where he torches Matthew Cronin. Cronin brought it upon himself after writing off Roddick and saying that there was "nothing special" about him. Write-off Roddick at your own risk.........James Blake's personal tribute to Andre Agassi was brilliant. Loved the loud pink Nike outfit and bandana. The bandana actually looked good on him. The rest of the outfit is just as ugly now as it was then.........Happy birthday to Jimmy Connors who turned 54 on Sept. 2. I did not realize that both he and Andy shared the same sun sign, Virgo. Interesting..........Marat Safin advanced to the third round of the USO for the first time since 2001. He had won the title in 2000, beating Pete Sampras in the final..........Random Question of the Week: how many bagels does Gaston Gaudio have to eat before he becomes an honorary Jew?..........Second Random Question of the Week: who is the most invisible of the Invisible Men: Ivan Ljubicic or Nikolay Davydenko?.........I'm still loving the Roddick vs PONG commercials. AmEx has recovered from the Mojo disaster and hit a bulls-eyes with this ad campaign..........Speaking of, who plays most like PONG? Rafael Nadal or Lleyton Hewitt?..........How funny was it to see two-time defending champion Roger Federer getting dumped on the Armstrong court while James Blake and Carlos Moya were playing in Ashe Stadium? It was a nice make-up gift to the fans who held the rain-delayed tickets, though..........The USO crowds have been awesome this year with their raucous enthusiasm, record numbers of fans visiting, and Arthur Ashe stadium has been sold out every night of play..........Is it my imagination or have the USO crowds been doing The Wave an awful lot this year? Not that there's anything wrong with that..........One very American cheer we've been hearing a lot during the Agassi matches: the sing-song "Let's go, Andre!" clap-clap, clap-clap-clap cheer often reserved for baseball matches. It'll be interesting to see if they use this cheer on any other player this week..........edit. Never mind, I just heard some in the crowd singing this cheer to James Blake..........Speaking of Blake, I find it ironic that one of the nicest and most well-liked guys on tour has one of the most obnoxious, antagonizing, and rudest cheering section of friends around, the J-Block ..........This week's most over-used gesture: players pounding on their chest to show how much heart they have. Everybody's Tarzan all of a sudden.........It appears that nobody is impressed with Vince Spadea's new book, or with the man himself. The New York Times blog reported that nobody had signed up to play doubles with Vinnay at USO, and even nice guy Jonas Bjorkman scoffed at Spadea's book saying that Vinnay keeps to himself most of the time so he can't have much to dish. "What is it, two pages?" he snarked. Hee!

COMMENT ON THIS POST
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Updated August 31, 2006

US Open: Hurricane Andy



"People don't seem to understand that it's a damn war out there."

— JIMMY CONNORS.


R2: Roddick def Pless 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-3

You can't tell from the scoreline but the Pless match was a hiccup for Roddick and he's lucky he was playing Pless and not Hewitt or Blake, otherwise he would've lost.

Other than Roddick's awesome serve stats (which were rocking; his winning % on the first serve was an incredible 92%!), the rest of his game was shaky. Yes, he won 73% points at the net, but he was stoning volleys again and never looked comfortable at the net. In fact he never looked comfortable on court all evening. His monster forehand was MIA again; I fear it may be just a myth, like the Loch Ness Monster or something. The first set was a piece of cake but when Pless began to relax and press more in the second set, Roddick began to look nervous, and he reverted back to old habits such as camping out 20 feet behind the baseline.

I wondered if maybe Roddick was nervous because the atmosphere of a night match on his birthday may have conjured up bad memories of what happened last year on his birthday. He later admitted that he had the pre-match jitters and claimed to have a difficult time getting into his "bad guy" mode because he was constantly getting "Happy birthday" wishes from everyone all day, plus his mother called, etc. It's not easy to put your game face on when you're celebrating your birthday, I guess.

Roddick knew he wasn't playing well, and he often yelled at himself during the match. Even when he finally won, he was hardly in a celebratory mood, he just shook his head in disgust: 'Nope, nope. This won't do.' And he's right: that kind of playing won't fly against a better opponent. It was an ugly win against a lesser player but it's over now and he's the first player into the third round. He has a few days to regroup with Connors, who almost certainly will give him another quiet earful again.

Let's hope the hiccups are gone now because from the fourth round on, he won't be allowed any more.

His third round match will be vs. Fernando Verdasco, which is tenatively scheduled for Saturday.

* * *
Roddick denies Sharapova affair
Andy Roddick was not in party mood after marking his 24th birthday with victory at the U.S. Open, trying to put to rest rumors he is romantically linked with Russian Maria Sharapova.

"We're not dating," he told reporters after his 6-3 7-6 6-3 win over Danish qualifier Kristian Pless.

I've said it a million times already, but you guys refuse to write it. You know, we're friendly. We're in the same places. I think she's a great girl. You know, we'll talk. That's about it."

Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and former world number one, said life on the tennis tour made relationships difficult to manage.

"It's a little bit of a stretch when we both travel. She's actually busier than I am. That's a little bit of a stretch. But, you know, I think she's great. I can't say enough nice things about her," he said.

Sharapova, who beat Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands 6-3 6-0 on Wednesday, was also quizzed by reporters about Roddick.

"You know what, I really don't talk about my personal life," she said. "When two tennis players know each other and are friends, and are known around the world, there's people are gonna talk. That's exactly what's happening."

* * *
More Rantings and Rumblings from Day Three of USO

American Watch: James Blake, Mardy Fish, Justin Gimelstob, Robby Ginepri, Vince Spadea, and WC entrant Sam Querrey all made it through to the second round. But since winning Indianapolis a few weeks ago, the top American seed Blake is still having problems closing out his matches.........I no longer feel sorry for anybody who might have missed the Agassi-Pavel match Monday evening because USA Network has made it their goal to show us the match as often as possible. It was a good match but please stop the reruns and show us some live tennis, or at least show us a different classic match during rain delays, k? thanks..........Vince Spadea's guide to getting on the Davis Cup team: dish the dirt on your fellow Americans in your new book. James Blake wasn't pleased with Vinny Ice's tell-all: "I feel like in writing that book, he may have made a mistake and may have kind of rubbed a few people the wrong way and not made so many friends in the locker room."..........I'll bet Spadea is mad that Binge has gotten more air time for their songs than any of his rap tunes have gotten..........hats off to Rafael Nadal for paying for his respects to 9/11 victims at Ground Zero the other day. Just another reason why I admire this kid so much.........I like how Michael Bartan tried to sneak in a are-you-dating-Andy-Roddick question to Maria Sharapova last night after her match with Michaella Krajicek. Maria's response was her predictable "No comment" comment. Why does she keep saying "No comment" when a simple "No, we're not dating," would suffice? Answer: because the media frenzy over Roddickpova is good business for tennis and makes for good ratings, even though both Maria's and Andy's matches were boring as hell last night. Maria is no dummy.........The Roddickpova denial was the most e-mailed story on Yahoo! Sports..........Speaking of Maria, her Nike "I Feel Pretty" commercial is starting to grow on me. I love seeing the McEnroe brothers singing "I Feel Pretty" before Maria shrieks everybody silent. LOL.........Maria Sharapova claimed to not know that it was Roddick's birthday last night. "Is it his birthday? I had no idea." Riiight..........The NY Daily News published an unflattering article the other day about the similarities between Roddick and Sharapova: "No nuance to their games, no point-building, no contribution to the collective knowledge of playing the sport..." Wow! Good thing they both have their looks to fall back on in case the tennis thing doesn't work out..........Another thing Maria and Andy have in common: they are both really bad liars..........I just discovered that the New York Times is doing a blog for the US Open. Interesting read for behind-the-scenes goings-on. They always have good tennis coverage during USO, even though Selena Roberts is a twit..........No birthday cake for the grumpy birthday boy last night? Bummer..........Praise be to Jesus that Roger Federer did not show up for his first round match wearing that pretentious cream-colored blazer. If he does, I hope the NY crowd boos him off the court. Better yet, jeer him with calls of "Waiter! Waiter!".........I'm starting to get butterflies in my stomach waiting for the Agassi-Baghdatis match tonight. I'm excited and nervous about it.........The always-tactful Marat Safin is not a fan of Cincinnati, Ohio where the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters is held: "Go there and see how depressing that place is." You mean there's a place out there that's more depressing than Siberia?

News:
- READ Andy's post-match interview here.
- Fox Sports: Roddick says he's ready to take New York.

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What Happened to the Photo Gallery?
It's gone. Poof! Kaput. Server died and I fear I may have lost everything. I'm looking into a new server and hopefully I'll have another photo gallery up running again soon. I'm still in mourning. It sucks to lose an entire year's worth of work.

* * *
DOWNLOAD Part 4 of "On the Rod" from USO here. Flash video file

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Originally posted August 30, 2006

"When he's jammin' on center court, He's the best man in the sport, The way he hits the ball defies all logic, chaotic , exotic – Hey Hey! It's Andy Roddick."

— Lyrics from the song "Hey, It's Andy Roddick" by the garage band, Binge. Soon to be a classic.


R1: Roddick def Serra 6-2 6-1 6-3


VCR ALERT! On Tuesday, Sept. 5: Ellen Degeneres will have a segment about her hosting Arthur Ashe Kids' Day with Agassi and Roddick!


Roddick's date at his foundation's "Champions for Charity Gala"? A cardboard cutout of comedian Ellen DeGeneres. "I love her," he said. ''I think she's great." photo courtesy of the Boston Globe

Remember about a year ago back when RoddickOnline was still around how we campaigned hard to get Andy on Ellen's show? She must have received a ton of requests over that summer, but it seems to have worked. I am so pleased to see that Andy will finally be featured on her show, he is a big fans of hers. Congrats and thanks to all of you for your help with our little "Get Andy on Ellen" campaign!

* * *
Roddick Roars

So far I'm 1-for-1 with my match predictions. Heh. Well, except for the "Tuesday start date" thing but no matter. Andy won and he won easily and he won doing it the Roddick way: with a lot of power and confidence. This was a very good first round match for Andy. This is how all his matches should be. This is how last year's match shouldn't gone...okay, no more ghost of Gilles crap. It's over. The mojo crap is finally over. Glory hallelujah!

The best part of the match was watching Serra become completely unhinged and discouraged early on in the match. In the first few games, he was into it, ready to play and fight, but by the start of the second set, he was done. He didn't want to be on court anymore. He didn't want to deal with Andy anymore. This is what a top class player does: completely wipes out his opponent's mental resistance. No wonder Serra played so badly. Andy made him.
Q. Are you more confident with Jimmy as your coach than you were prior to [Cincy]?

ANDY RODDICK: Yes.

Q. Why?

ANDY RODDICK: Because I'm winning.

So well done to the birthday boy, who turns 24 today. I hope he breezes through his second round match today, is presented with a nice big chocolate cake, and is then serenaded by the crowd with "Happy birthday!" We have to make up for last year's nightmare birthday.

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Other Random Musings about Day Two of USO

Agassi Watch. Boy, do I feel bad for anybody who missed seeing Andre Agassi's first-round with Andrei Pavel. That was brilliant playing from two old guys (30-somethings), neither of whom got in any match play over the summer. Amazing, actually. Riveting, edge-of-your-seat tension for three sets. From the Miami Herald: "Like every other diehard American tennis fan, Andy Roddick knew exactly where he was going to be Monday night: In front of a television set watching Agassi. Agassi is so revered in the locker room that more than 200 players showed up for a special meeting to present him with a vintage bottle of wine from 1970, the year he was born. Roddick would have attended Agassi's match, but he had to rest after his 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 first-round victory over Florent Serra. After last year's shocking first-round loss to an unknown player from Luxembourg, Roddick is not taking any chances."..........the crowd was a bit rough with Pavel, but this is something all of the players should be expecting when they go up against the retiring American legend this week. It's his last tournament, it's an American crowd, of course they are going to get crazy and cheer for Agassi like mad. What country wouldn't, if Agassi were their own? It's not like they were cheering against Pavel, they just desperately wanted to see Agassi make another great run here and Agassi was in danger of being tossed out in the first round. As for the crowd cheering for faults and whatnot, well, James Blake went through the exact same thing last year in their classic quarterfinal clash. So remember for this week only: when it comes to Agassi, all players, including the young Americans, will be taking a back seat and reduced to second-class citizenship on the court. It's only temporary..........Agassi's next opponent will be Marcos Baghdatis, a player very similar to Andre himself. But for those who seem to think that Baghdatis is going to wimp out when he faces Agassi, I have to say that I emphatically disagree. Marcos gets a lot of inspiration from a rowdy, enthusiastic crowd and he's going to get the biggest one of all come Thursday. I think he's going to play great and I hope Andre does, too. The only difference is that Baghdatis' cheering section will be slightly larger than the one Pavel had. Judging from Bags' first round match, the Americans like what they see in Marcos. I think (hope) it will be another memorable match. With Agassi winning, of course. Gotta keep that fourth-round Roddick dream match alive..........That Billie Jean King ceremony was something else, wasn't it? John McEnroe should be an announcer for everything for life. Venus Williams should not. I loved seeing McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Chris Evert (ooh. awkward.) together again. Connor's comment that he was "the quiet man now" was funny, if only because he was so very not quiet in his prime. I'm so glad that Andy found him and that Connors, a man who looked out for no one but himself, was willing to coach him..........One lesson I hope Roddick learns from Connors: how not to give a shit what people say or think about you. Seriously. Roddick cares too much what people say about him, he has taken the media's non-stop criticism to heart and it has affected his playing. Roddick admitted himself that he couldn't watch Wimbledon when he got home because the constant Roddick-bashing seemed so senseless and unfair to him. You and me both, Andy. Tell them to piss-off, Jimmy Connors style..........FYI, Roddick's 148mph serve during his first round match was not a record. The USO serve record is 150mph which belongs to—ta daa!—Roddick from his first round match with Scoville Jenkins at 2004 USO. Poor Scoey must've been so traumatized by the Roddick beatdown, we haven't heard from him since then...Messageboard Whine of the Week: "Waaaa! Roger Federer got stuck with a Wednesday start! This is an insult to the two-time defending champion. The USO rain delays are soooo rigged to favor Roddick. waaaaa!" Please get over it, folks. I seem to recall some very favorable scheduling for Federer at Wimbledon in 2005 where Roddick got stuck playing his semifinal match over two days, with no day off to rest for the final, while Roger went into the final fresh as a daisy. Gee, no wonder Roddick played and lost badly. This kind of scheduling happens at most tournaments, learn to live with it...Federer just demolished some Wang dude in under two hours. What will next week's Whine be?..........Ivan Ljubicic crashed out in the first round to Feliciano Lopez. Hee! Poor Jon Wertheim and his cursed USO Picks..........by the way, Wertheim was asked about the Roddickpova affair while visiting the USA Network studio and his response was "This is the worst kept secret since Brad and Angelina." OMG! Does this mean Andy and Maria will be getting matching tattoos shortly?..........Rafael Nadal knocked out the big-serving Mark Philippoussis today in straight sets. The New York Times says that Nadal's "improved volleys and serves" are what made the difference in this match. Eek..........Roddick faces Kristian Pless in the second round tonight (after his girlfriend Maria's match finishes) I'm unfamiliar with Pless' game but here's my blind, uneducated prediction: Andy in straight sets..........Oh, were the women playing this year? I didn't notice..........Rain, rain, go away. Why was the US Open scheduled during the hurricane season anyway?...Somewhat shocking result of the day: Sebastien Grosjean defeated Thomas Johansson in five sets today. Didn't see that one coming..........Other somewhat shocking result of the day: Marat Safin won a match and is in the second round..........Some kudos for USA Network: thank you for not wasting our time by showing the boring, beat-down matches that are inevitable in the early rounds. In fact, thank you for not showing us any WTA matches at all.

* * *
Hey! Hey! It's Andy's Song!

If you've been watching the US Open Late Night recap shows, you might've noticed that they started playing that cheesy-but-fun "Hey, It's Andy Roddick" song again from a garage band called Binge. Binge actually has a website for their kitschy tennis songs where you can listen to samples and purchase them to download, too. Andy, Nadal, Federer, Hingis, and now Sharapova all have their own songs. Cool, eh? Props to Binge for helping to spread the tennis love.

News:
- READ Andy's funny (when are they not?) post-match interview here.
- New York Times: Assist to Connors as Roddick Rolls in First Round.
- Newsday: Emotional Rescue.
- Bloomberg.com: Roddick, After 2005 U.S. Open Fiasco, Takes on Connors as Coach.
- Tennis-X: Roddick on Connors: Do Not Dissect It, Just Enjoy It.
- Palm Beach Post: Commentary: Jimbo gives U.S. tennis bit of hope.

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WATCH the first new "On the Rod" episode of Andy from the USO here. thanks to claire for providing this video!

DOWNLOAD the second new "On the Rod" episode of Andy from the USO here.

WATCH a clip of Andy and Andre Agassi from last year's Arthur Ashe Kids' Day event here. Very funny and entertaining video!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Roddick's Reawakening


DUDE, SIGN MY HEAD. Roddick signs tennis player Murphy Jensen's head earlier today at New York City's Lacoste store.


It's been four days since Andy took Cincinnati by storm and I'm still over the moon about it. I'll take this opportunity to answer a few questions Watchers have asked me and also touch upon some fan comments I've seen on messageboards regarding Andy's win:

Andy won Cincy! Does this mean he got his Mojo back?
Yes and no. Not until Roddick gets out of the first round at USO will the Mojo ghost finally dissipate into oblivion. The good news is that he plays Florent Serra in the first round, and if Roddick plays anything like he played in Cincy, he will win easily.

Was it my imagination or was Roddick volleying good?
No, it wasn't your imagination. After he survived the first-round Bracciali match, he got an earful from Jimmy Connors on the phone that evening. After that, Roddick took Connor's words to heart and started playing more aggressively and attacking the net more. Throughout the rest of the week, he volleyed often and he volleyed well, making better approach shots and coming in at the right times. Here's a look at his impressive net stats from the week:

So does this mean that Andy is back to being the No. 1 American player?
In the actual rankings, no. As of Monday James Blake is ranked No. 5 and Roddick is ranked No. 10. In most fan's hearts and minds, yes. Blake has the game to win, but Roddick's got the heart.

I didn't worry too much when Andy lost the No. 1 American player rank to James Blake earlier this year because I knew it was a temporary situation; Blake was ascending and Roddick was obviously in a funk. The fact of the matter is, Roddick is the Alpha Male of the whole American contingent. Blake is a leader, too, but in a different way. He has often been accused of not having the guts and the heart to go all the way towards winning a slam (him claiming that losing to Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals of the USO last year was the "most fun he's ever had" doesn't help his case). He still hasn't won a five set match! That's a harsh assessment but judging from Blake's poor showing after he won Indianapolis a few weeks ago, the criticism he receives might be justified. Blake is a very inconsistent player; he'll play great tennis one week and then slip and slide for the next three to five weeks. He just recently crashed out of his home tournament, Pilot Pen, where he's the defending champ. Blake seems to be having a difficult time adjusting to his new Top American Dog status (and the pressures and responsibilities that it entails) and/or problems dealing with the expectations of having to win all the time. He can no longer play free and relaxed because he is no longer the underdog with a great sob story. He is now expected to play well often, and to win often. In professional sports, this is where the boys are separated from the men.

It is ideal for American tennis to have two players in the Top Ten, but I think it would also be better for American tennis if Roddick were back in his No. 1 position and Blake at No. 2. It just seems like a more natural order of things.

Roddick's win doesn't mean anything. He didn't play any top ten players and he never had to face Federer or Nadal.
You can only play what's put in front of you and it's not Roddick's fault that Federer and Nadal crashed out before they were supposed to, is it? After they were gone, somebody had to step up and win the title. And why not Roddick, a former Cincy champion? Why didn't the other guys seeded 3, 4, and 5 take advantage of this great opportunity to win an AMS title? Roddick saw the opportunity, and he pounced. Winners do that.

Also, spare me the "Roddick hasn't faced any top ten players" argument. Tennis is a game of match-ups and rankings belie talent. You can't tell me that Andy Murray wasn't a dangerous opponent for Roddick, I don't care how exhausted Murray was. He had the mental edge knowing that he owns Roddick 2-0 and that he can beat him on his home turf.

Besides, Roger Federer didn't face one top ten player, either, when he won the Roger's Cup just the week before. It happens in sport all the time.

What exactly has Jimmy Connors done for Roddick's game?
The biggest thing? Confidence. As Pam Shriver noted, if you have confidence, then your game will fall into place and good things will start to happen. Jimmy Connors infused in Roddick some badly-needed confidence and self-belief. Connors has said that he believes Roddick has what it takes to make it to the top again, and Roddick needed to hear that from someone of Connors' stature. Hearing "You're a great player" from your brother, your mother, your physical trainer, your psychiatrist, or your best friend simply does not carry the same weight as an eight-time slam tennis champion. Especially one who does not offer up compliments freely.

Once Roddick started to believe in himself again, all of the hard work he's been putting into his game started to pay off: his volleys were looking better than ever, his return game was terrific, and his backhand was no longer a liability. Charles Bricker gives a nice little write-up here of the changes he noticed to Roddick's game at Cincy.

PMac is so annoying! Why does he have to suck up to Roddick so much?
If you would take your McEnroe earplugs out once in a while you would've noticed a long time ago that Patrick McEnroe gets excited about a lot of players, not just Roddick (Federer and Nadal are two that he's constantly waxing poetic about). PMac has been critical of Roddick often over the past year, so I don't blame him one bit for finally having a good reason to get excited about seeing the old Andy Roddick back in action, slamming down balls, and showing his fire and energy again. Pam Shriver was positively giddy over Roddick's new and improved net game. Watching Roddick in Cincinnati was like watching a whole new player being born. If that's not exciting tennis, then you're not watching the same game that I am.

I get it now. Now i see what people were talking about when they say that Roddick's game is completely different when he's confident.
It's the mathematics of the law of sports: Low confidence = bad playing = lose a lot. High confidence = good playing = win a lot.

I know many non-Roddick fans and casual tennis observers never really noticed but it's true: Roddick has been in a slump for a long time now (the slow decline began at USO 2004 with his quarterfinal loss to Joachim Johansson) and he's been playing very badly for months now. Contrary to some people's opinion, Roddick's awful playing is NOT his normal form. I am glad that people were finally able to witness what an in-form Roddick looks like during a tournament week. It has been too long since we've seen that.

Can Roddick beat Nadal on the hardcourts?
Of course he can.

I am amazed at the number of tennis fans who are saying that Nadal could "easily dismantle" Roddick at USO. What criteria are they using to come to this conclusion? Nadal and Roddick have met exactly twice, once at USO and once at Davis Cup on clay, both in 2004. They are 1 for 1.

These fans' reasoning goes, "Well, Nadal's a different player now and he's the world No. 2." Yes, and? Roddick is not the same player that he was in 2004, either. And again, rankings don't mean anything, it's about the match-up. Historically, Roddick has problems with retriever-type players but Nadal has problems with big-servers. Nadal's heavy lefty topspin does not hinder Roddick's playing the way it does Federer's. And if Roddick continues to use his new aggressive net game, he could finish off points quicker at the net instead of wasting energy getting into a long baseline rally with Nadal, which nobody wants to do because Nadal will almost always win the point.

I could see Nadal and Roddick having a tough four-set match on the fastcourt, but for Nadal to "dismantle" Roddick? Um, no.

What does the Cincy win mean for Andy's chances at the US Open?
It means that Roddick is back in the small group of slam contenders and poses a legit threat to the two dominators: Nadal and Federer. He will be seeded No. 9 (after Mario Ancic pulled out due to injury) which means he avoids clashing with any of the top four seeded players until the quarterfinals.

Has anyone else noticed? Andy is no longer fiddling with his wristband.
One nervous tick down, only a half dozen more to go. I like the hat-adjusting habit, though. And a few other adjustments.

News:
- READ Andy Roddick's post-match interview after defeating Juan Carlos Ferrero in the Cincinnati final here.
- Charles Bricker: Roddick on the Right Horse.
- NY Sun: For Roddick, Timing May Be Key to Success.
- Houston Chronicle: Connors Gives Roddick a Boost.
- Cincinnati Enquirer: Roddick Winning with New Style.
- CNN: Caption Andy Roddick - Reader Caption Winners.
- Cincinnati Post: Roddick's Renaissance.
- Steve Tignor: The 2003 Show.
- Peter Bodo: Real Men Don't Run.

* * *
Who's That Girl?, Part Deux

While the media is going ga-ga over a secret Roddickpova affair, another mystery girl has been popping up during Andy's Cincy matches. She has been seen sitting next to Andy's agent, Ken Meyerson. Naturally, I assumed she was Meyerson's girlfriend.

But when ESPN panned over her during the end credits after the Murray-Roddick match, I thought that was unusual for them to do and so I took a screencap:



ESPN does not usually pan over a random girl sitting in the stands during end credits (they do it all the time during matches, yes, but not to sign off at the end of the show, unless they are holding "Marry me, Andy" signs or something like that). So when they focused on her I thought: hmm. Is this Andy's mystery girlfriend?

A few days later, Tennis Photo Library started running some pics of the same girl I had taken a screencap of and in the captions she is named as Roddick's girlfriend, J.J.:


Photo caption: Andy Roddick's girlfriend J.J. watches during the finals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 20, 2006.

So. What to make of it all? Is Andy dating this girl J.J. or is he dating Maria? Is J.J. the girlfriend of somebody else who works for Team Roddick or is she another ruse (like the mystery blonde was a few weeks ago)? Maybe Andy's dating both J.J. and Maria? Is Andy cheating on Mardy? Questions, questions, but who's got the answers?

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Roddick Caught With His Pants Down!

Or, his zipper actually. With his Under Armor underpants flying out for the whole world to see. LOL. Andy did a guest appearance on Fox & Friends earlier this week and he did it with gusto. XYZ, Andy!

Remember this quote from his interview in Smash tennis magazine?
Q: What is your favorite non-tennis clothing label?
RODDICK: "Lucky Jeans. They're cool because when you unzip them, it says LUCKY YOU inside the zipper."

"Lucky You"? Lucky us. Har!

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UPDATED!
US Open Draw Is Out

The Draw Gods were very kind to Andy this year. Here's my short preview:

Round 1: Florent Serra (FRA) Roddick's first-round victim will be Florent Serra of France. I say "victim" because there's no way in hell Andy will allow himself to lose in the first round at USO again. Not with Jimmy Connors watching in the stands; not when exorcising the Mojo monster is at stake. The worst that can happen is the match goes to four sets, which is entirely possible when playing an opponent you're not familiar with and Serra may come out swinging with nothing to lose, but I think Serra will be beaten into submission in straight sets. Look for a Tuesday night start date.

Round 2: Alberto Martin (ESP) Up next is the Spaniard who beat Roddick in the first round at Roland Garros earlier this year when Roddick had to retire due to injury. Roddick has a 4-1 h/t/h with Martin. Martin has a 1-7 h/t/h with the hardcourts. Roddick will be looking for revenge, in straight sets.

Round 3: Fabrice Santoro (FRA) or Fernando Verdasco (ESP) There's that pesky Verdasco again. Roddick has a 4-2 record vs Verdasco, his only loss on hardcourt to the Spaniard came when Roddick retired in Miami 2005. Their last two hardcourt meetings saw Verdasco slumping out the door in straight sets. I'll expect the same result here at USO. If it's Santoro, he could prove a much trickier opponent. Roddick beat Santoro in straight sets in the SF of Lyon, France last year. Santoro is a talented shot-maker who has little problems handling big servers, but Santoro doesn't really have the legs anymore to keep up with a high-energy player like Roddick. He could give Roddick trouble for maybe a set, and then he'll go away.

Round 4: Andre Agassi (USA), Thomas Johansson (SWE), or Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) If there is a tennis God, He will give us Roddick vs Agassi in a dream match-up. Roddick has a losing record vs. Agassi, 1-5, and has never beaten Agassi on the hardcourt. But if Andy's going to beat Andre now would be the perfect time and place to do it; it would be a fitting and symbolic end to Agassi's career if he were to lose to Roddick right here—out with the old, in with the new, so to speak. Unfortunately, Agassi has been in terrible form lately, too many niggling injuries are finally catching up to him, and I fear that he may lose long before he reaches the round of 16. I really hope that won't happen. If Agassi gets past Baghdatis, then we can assume that he's back in-form and unhindered by injury. Either way, I'm praying for this match-up to happen.

Johansson could potentially be a headache for Andy as their last meeting (on grass) went to five sets and three TBs, but in their one hardcourt meeting in Bangkok a year ago, Roddick took him out in straight sets, no TBs.

Another potential cracking match would be vs. Marcos Baghdatis. Baggy seems to save his best playing for slams, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him take out Agassi and get to the round of 16. His hardcourt record is very good. He beat Roddick at the Australian Open earlier this year. That was the nightmare match where Roddick had never seen Baghdatis before and played an utterly confused and ass-backwards match. He won't make that mistake again at USO.

Quarterfinal: Lleyton Hewitt (AUS), Ivan Ljubicic (CRO), or Richard Gasquet (FRA) Lleyton Hewitt has been out for weeks due to a knee injury. He says he will play USO on a sore knee. If Hewitt even makes it this far I take my hat off to him. To be injured and rusty from lack of competitive play and still make it to the QFs would be a tremendous achievement for him. That said, I'm not expecting to see Hewitt anywhere near the QFs. Roddick's biggest problem here could be the talented Richard Gasquet, who was last seen taking a set off Federer in the Roger's Cup final. Roddick and Gasquet have not met yet so there's always the danger of playing an unfamiliar opponent. But I don't know how Gasquet will react to Roddick's 140 mph serves, either.

The other potential troublemaker here is Ivan Ljubicic, who has beaten Roddick in their last two meetings (the most famous one being where Ljubicic single-handedly destroyed the entire Team USA at Davis Cup 2005 in Carson, California). Ljubicic, another big server with a big mouth, seems to be off his game lately. He fizzled vs Tommy Robredo at Cincinnati recently. There seems to be a bit of a grudge between Roddick and Ljuby, so I think it would be a great match if Roddick puts on his Rodzilla face and performs his aggressive in-your-face fistpumping/screaming act just for Ivan.

Semifinal: Rafael Nadal My other dream match. Hubba hubba! They haven't met since 2004 USO, when Roddick literally blew Nadal off the court, feeding him a bagel in the process. But times have changed since 2004, Rafa has more confidence now being the dominant No. 2 player in the world. Nadal has a few things going for and against him here. FOR: Nadal was gifted a draw that places practically all of the dirtballers and a few C-list hardcourt players in his bottom half of the draw. FOR: no Rafa-killing James Blake on his side of the draw this time. AGAINST: Nadal has been struggling to find his form on the hardcourts this summer and he comes into USO with no momentum to ride. AGAINST: the big-serving Mark Philippoussis in the first round could be Nadal's mojo moment this year. FOR: But if Nadal gets past Poo, he'll have one big-server notched under his belt. Prediction: a really fascinating semifinal. But Roddick still wins.

Final: some Swiss guy Who else? Andy Murray? Wait, don't answer that. If Federer's not in this final, will his career be over? Come on, I wouldn't read too much into his Cincinnati tank job. He was tired, he was bored, he was blah. But come USO he'll have his game face back on. If Roddick gets to this final I will be expecting him to come armed to the hilt to try to dethrone Federer. Look for 2004 Wimbledon Andy to show up, angrier than ever. He wants to beat Roger very, very badly, but Roger will not let his guard down and has an annoying habit of bringing his A-game whenever he faces Roddick. Don't you just hate that? My only prediction: this will not be won or lost in straight sets.

And if Federer's not waiting for Roddick in the final then, um, expect the tennis illuminati to be having conniptions for the next several weeks.

Jon Wertheim predicts in his Men's USO Preview that no American man will reach the semifinal, but that Ivan Ljubicic will be in the final with Federer. Okaaay. Well, at least he's finally jumped off the Gael Monfils bandwagon.
James Blake (seeded 5): After cracking the top five earlier this summer, Blake has been awful lately. On paper he's on the short list of players to make some major noise at the Open, but he comes in with virtually no momentum. Also, he has the misfortune of playing in Federer's quadrant.

Andy Roddick (seeded 9): The great X factor. We all know about his travails in '06. But has anyone played better tennis on the hard courts? After Roddick's win in Cincy -- and with Coach Jimmy in the box -- this could be a lot of fun for the American fans. Particularly with last year's first-round fiasco as motivation for Andy, we're predicting the hot streak continues, at least through the quarters.

Dark Horse Nation – Andre Agassi: Does he have one last hurrah left in him? Unfortunately, the draw deities did him no favors.

Dark Horse Nation – Mardy Fish: Forgotten American is quietly climbing the charts again. A nice (and overdue) run in New York would be another boost.

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Play Tennis with Andy on Your Mobile Phone

Random Thought of the Day: Ever wonder what Andy's ringtone would sound like if he had one? "That *&^% ball was on the %*$#!! line! %$#@!!"



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WATCH the ATP Tennis Show's recap of the Cincy final here.

DOWNLOAD Andy's guest appearance on "Cold Pizza" from this morning here and here.

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