Tuesday, September 04, 2007

US Open: The Party Slam

QF: Federer def Roddick
7-6(5) 7-6(4) 6-2
R16: Roddick def Berdych
7-6 (8-6) 2-0 ret
R32: Roddick def Johansson
6-3 6-2 6-0
R64: Roddick def Acasuso
4-6 6-1 6-2 ret
R128: Roddick def Gimelstob
7-6(6) 6-3 6-3

Roger Federer once called the Australian Open "the happy slam." So I am christening the US Open "the party slam." With all those electrifying night matches and enthusiastic, raucous New York crowds (every session has been sold out), how can it not be? How can anyone not be enjoying the spectacle?

Here We Go Again. It's Roddick vs Federer.

The silence is deafening. For the first time time since the start of this non-rivalry I'm not reading or hearing any buzz about this quarterfinal match at all. Ennui seems to have finally settled in. I have no feelings about this match whatsoever, said one bored fan. Is this what rock bottom feels like? Myself, I am comfortably numb about tonight's match.

I guess I should be happy that for once Roddick didn't lose to anybody that he shouldn't have lost to before getting to Federer. On the other hand, Andy had such little match play (two players retired on him) that it may have done him more harm than good.

Not that it matters. Expectations are about as low as they can get for this match. "Nobody expects much from me," Andy has said. "I expect more from myself." On his end, Roger has said, "I know the danger of playing Andy." Which is bad news for Roddick. Federer has never taken Andy for granted, even though their head to head is lopsided in Roger's favor. Something about Andy brings out the best in Roger whereas Roger often brings out the worst in Andy. Their matchup couldn't be worse; while Federer is spreading his wings and flying higher than anybody imagined Roddick would take a step forward and then five steps back and then run in place back to square one.

To add another problem: Roddick has already peaked during his third round match with Thomas Johansson, playing some of his best tennis I've seen from him since the Australian Open (Craig Hickman has a nice write-up of that match and the Berdych match here). Unfortunately Andy has not been consistent with those kinds of results. On the Roddick rollercoaster it usually goes: play great one day, play like crap the next.

As one who has been observing Roddick for years, here is my own unhelpful advice for Team Roddick:

• Do not go out into the match feeling relaxed. You did that at the Australian Open semis and look what happened. You are at your best when playing angry. Get angry at Roger. Be very angry with him. Be an asshole. Use the crowd. No apologies.

• You're not allowed to hit more than three backhand slices in a row.

• Do not bum rush the net, especially when you are panicking. The whole point of approaching the net is the element of surprise and your opponent is never taken off guard because you keep approaching the net like an elephant.

• Play against your instinct. Federer knows your game well and he knows what you tend to do when you're feeling confident and when you're in trouble. Be prescient and mindful. You tend to rush the net when you're in panic mode. Roger knows this. Avoid it.

• Play the point, not the score.

• Instead of hitting Federer with 140mph bombs all the time (which he can read just fine), try throwing in some 105mph loopers. I noticed Djokovic did this to Federer in Montreal and Roger couldn't read the slower serves nearly as well as the fast ones. He also can't return down the middle serves as well from the Ad court.

• Do not put pressure on yourself to either win or lose. I know how competitive you are and I know that in the back of your mind you are thinking, "Oh shit, I have to win this. I can't let Roger beat me again!" You are only setting yourself up for failure by thinking this way. Learn to quiet the voice of self-doubt. Let go all of pressure to win or lose and just enjoy the process of playing tennis. This is exactly why Roger wins so much. He has thrown all pressure off of his shoulders. He can swing freely because winning or losing is not on his agenda. You can learn to do the same.

• Good luck and have fun! You are the star. And remember: Jimmy Connors doesn't want any more broken pieces of Andy to pick up and put back together. He is running out of glue.

Related articles:
• What Roddick needs to do to finally overcome Federer [SI.com]
• To Test Federer, Roddick Must Go for Broke [NY Sun]
• Connors gives Roddick some simple advice [New York Times]
• Federer brings out the worst in Roddick [Washington Post]
• Five ways to beat Roger Federer [Time]
• Ousting Federer a long shot for Roddick [Cronin, Fox Sports]

Roddick's New Lexus Commercial

Fan review has been mixed for "The Big Backup". We don't get it, but we like it anyway because it stars Andy and it doesn't have anything to do with mojo.

The Roddick/Lexus imprinting seems to have worked, too. Said one fan, posting on MTF: "We may be watching too much US Open coverage. When Mary Jo was interviewing Andy after the match, my four year-old daughter informed me that he was the guy who drives his car backwards after the tennis ball."

On the flip side, the Lexus ad could also be interpreted as a metaphor for Roddick's career going backwards, chasing after something he can't catch.

The one thing most people want to know is: who did the music? I don't know, but I'll post the info when I find out. (edit: music was composed by Jason Johnson).

Roddick vs Gimelstob Match

Not a classic but I enjoyed this match for what it was, just two friends enjoying their last professional match together on court (plus the fact that Roddick was rockin' in all black. Very New York City chic). The tennis was high quality and the friendship between the two was obvious, with several funny moments occuring throughout (see video below of the military academy tennis team incident). Roddick wasn't feeling it and came out flat in the first set but Gimelstob was a revelation. That was the best I'd ever seen him play and I was genuinely concerned that Andy was in danger of losing the first set. Andy said he knew Justin would go "kamikaze" and he did that. Justin also had seven shirt changes, giving Sharapova and the Williams sisters a run for their fashion money.

The highlight of the match didn't even occur during the match but afterwards in their oncourt interviews:

Here is Justin's write up on his last match at the USO. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of him. A TV career for tennis' Mr. Funnyman is in the works.

Related article from The New York Times blog: "Tennis Funnyman Leaves the Open and Its Fans in Stitches."

Related article from Newsday that says very well what I thought of Andy's first round performance: "Roddick wins but shows weaknesses at US Open."
Drama may have a long shelf life, but Andy Roddick is starting to get the idea that almost can become an old story. Again last night, his still-young tennis career of spellbinding power, narrow escapes and occasionally spectacular crashes was on full display in a first-round U.S. Open victory over Justin Gimelstob that was equal parts adrenaline rush and odd passivity. . . . Roddick demonstrated his hesitance for the obvious, allowing Gimelstob to control the net and push him farther and farther to the court's edges, so that Roddick needed his bazooka serve - hitting 145 miles per hour - to pull his chestnuts out of the fire in the early going.

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