Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Andy Leaves Them Laughing

Updated December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas from Masters Series TV

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Originally posted December 16, 2008

It is the tennis off-season and you know what that means: lots of charity work (the Andy Roddick Foundation raised $1.1 million this year) and more hilarious player impersonations from Andy. Check it out, from Rock n Racquets in Knoxville, Tennessee:

LOL, looky here, Andy impersonates Novak Djokovic again (hopefully Novak can take the joke this time):

Related News Items:

• "Meeting Roddick a dream come true for 95-year-old"
It will be a dream come true for the living legend, 95-year-old Dave Carey of Asheville, N.C., who has won 31 USTA national seniors titles.

"I'd love to meet him," Carey said Tuesday at Centre Court Racquet Club during a visit to Knoxville, where he once lived. "I hope I can meet him. I have some suggestions for him."

Carey, visiting with his wife, Peg, and his son, Peter, has been a huge fan of Roddick for years.

He has written letters to Roddick with suggestions for his tennis game - particularly ways to improve his backhand - and followed Roddick's rise to stardom.

"I've always admired the way he plays," Carey said. "There's not too many guys today who have the ability to serve-and-volley. I learned tennis as a kid on English grass courts, and we were always told never to let the ball bounce because on grass you never knew where it was going to go."

Carey admires Roddick's willingness to play for his country.

"I'm very proud of the fact that he is devoting himself to Davis Cup," Carey said. "In the old days, I played a lot of tennis with a guy named Gardner Mulloy. Gardner and I are the same age, exactly, 10 days apart.

"(Mulloy) always used to say he would rather play Davis Cup than one of the big tournaments, to play for your country and all that."

"Roddick, Williams (and Pearl) dazzle crowd" [Knoxnews]
Andy Roddick may have a career as a stand-up comedian once his playing days are over on the pro tennis tour.

Roddick, ranked No. 8 in the world, delivered one funny one-liner after another Sunday afternoon during the Rock-n-Racquets/BB&T charity exhibition before 3,600 fans at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena.

One of his best came after he and Serena Williams beat John Isner and Caroline Wozniacki in a tiebreaker to win a pro-set, during which UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl was chair umpire.

“As Coach Pearl knows, it’s tough to be in the shadow of a woman,” Roddick told the crowd before leaving the court while the women warmed up for singles.

Of course, Roddick was referring to Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt, who has won eight national titles, and himself, who has won one Grand Slam title to Serena’s nine.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roddick Announces Stefanki As New Coach

Updated December 9, 2008

Andy at his annual charity, Dec. 7. (click for larger image)

There is a great interview Steve Flink of the Tennis Channel did with Larry Stefanki recently where Larry goes into deeper analysis of Roddick's game and mindset and what his plans for coaching Roddick in 2009 will be. Reading the interview is getting me excited for the Australian Open to begin already. It's apparent that Stefanki is thrilled to be coaching a world-class athlete like Andy. Here are a few choice quotes from Larry, click on the link to read the entire interview.

"Steve Flink: Chronicles of Roddick" [The Tennis Channel]
"Andy is going to be the last guy I will ever travel with. When this is over I would like to get involved with junior development in this country. So it just felt like the right time. I felt like working with Fernando had gone its course. He had gotten to No. 5 in the world. I am excited about this because I feel I can really help him. Andy being an American was a big part of the decision for me."

"Let's face it, with a guy of Andy's caliber, winning another Slam or two is the gig. He is a past No. 1, a Grand Slam winner and he has had a dry spell for five years. I know he has the capability of winning another Slam or two. He is the best server in the game bar none, and he is looking to improve his return of serve, and coming forward and ending points a little sooner. Andy is a big body athlete, more of a Boris Becker type of athlete. He is not a David Ferrer or a Davydenko so he needs to make an adjustment and take risks at the right times. This past year he was below 30% on capitalizing on break points and he needs to bring that percentage way up. With some adjustments, there is no reason why he can't win a couple more Slams."

"He hit one return against Janko Tipsarevic at Wimbledon on a big break point in the bottom of the net. We talked about that and he said he was choking badly. And I said, 'No, no, no, no. That's where you have to know that you have the best return and it's rock solid and you are going to be aggressive. That knowingness and that thing in your head that clicks in is what you need to draw on. And knowing it and bluffing it are two different things.' Andy definitely knows how to win but he can get better at some things when he gets under the fire. I'm encouraged about that, and so is he."

"I think it appealed to Andy that I have worked with so many different personalities, so many different nationalities, some one-handed [backhands] and some two-handers, such a diverse group of guys. You learn something from everybody when you coach at the highest levels as I have. Andy is a great competitor. What stands out to me is his heart, his desire, his determination and his competitiveness. And he knows at his level you can't bluff it. I am very impressed with Andy."

"This guy is an incredibly hard worker. He is a mule. You tell him to do something and he does it. If you asked him to run through a wall and he knew that would make him a better player, he would do it."

"I was impressed with Andy's groundies when we worked in Austin. Very, very impressed. He has got an underrated [backhand] chip. We talked about that. Andy said, 'I get no respect for my chip.' He does from me."

"Like every great player, Andy is a perfectionist with the highest standards. He knows he doesn't want to fall into the trap of just getting balls back."

"Andy's mentality now is 'I am not going to be denied.' I love that. How can you not want to work with a guy like that?"

"His fiance [Brooklyn Decker] was there and she is an absolute wonder and asset. She is the greatest thing that that has ever happened to him. She has an unbelievable calming effect on him. I think my personality should work well with his. I will be there for him, but I am not his Daddy. I told Andy, 'I am not going to carry your bag.' He is going to get married so he is in charge of his own life. He doesn't want a guy coaching him who is a control freak. He is in control of his own life. This job is not about me — it is about me helping him achieve the goals he has decided to take on. Andy is a winner, and I am really looking forward to these next two years. He has so much going for him."

I really like what Larry has to say but I have to be honest and admit that I am worried that he may try to mess with Andy's serve the way he's done with previous protege's (like Tim Henman). We have seen over the years that coaches who try to "tweak" Andy's strengths end up messing up his entire game and as a result Andy's confidence takes a dive, and then he starts losing to every Tom, Dick, and Gilles. A perfect example is Andy's forehand, which at the height of its power during 2003-04 was one of the most feared weapons he had; nothing but flat power and precision. Somewhere during the nightmare 2005-06 season he got it into his head that he should use more topspin and loop the forehand more, which is fine to use against certain opponents such as Lleyton Hewitt who cannot create their own pace, but it got to the point where Andy was relying on the loopy topspin more than the flat power forehand and that's just not where his strengths lie in his game. I don't care how "one-dimensional" his serve/forehand combo is. That is what got him to the top of the game and that is how he won his lone slam title. He won a slam with a backhand that was worse back then than it is now! And what is so bad about being one-dimensional anyway? Serena Williams is one-dimensional. She is the proud owner of nine slam titles. Heck, Rafa Nadal is one-dimensional and he beats everybody including Federer. Andy recently said that his game is more well-rounded nowadays, which I agree with and think it's nice, but here's the million dollar question: is he a better player today than he was in 2004? My shocking answer: No, he is not. We've tried tweaking with his game, adding a few things like slice and topspin, and his backhand and ROS are better, but what I'd like to see again is the good old one-dimensional power/confidence player Andy back in 2009. When he feels good about his game, then everything else will fall into place. He will win more often and therefore win more titles. He can beat anybody when he's on his game, including the top five players in the world. Believe it. Simple as that.

My Challenge to Team Roddick in 2009: Focus on Winning That Elusive Second Slam, Forget the Clay Season Altogether

Personally, I feel that Stefanki's one and only goal in 2009 with Andy should be to help him win that elusive second slam, and I think Stefanki feels this way too. That's it. Just one more slam. I don't care if it's Wimbledon, just win a slam, any slam. Andy has three good chances to do it: at the AO, at Wimbledon, and at USO. The French Open is a lost cause. Seriously, I would advise they skip the clay season all together. Clay is not Andy's forte, not his strength, he doesn't like playing on it, and worst of all, he always ends up getting injured on it and it ruins the rest of his season. It's not worth it. Playing on clay adds absolutely nothing to his ultimate goal of winning Wimbledon. I say to Andy and his team: dump the French Open; skip Monte Carlo, Rome, and everything clay in between. It's Rafa's surface to own anyway, so let him have it. I'm not kidding. The European clay tournaments are not worth your time, not worth getting injured on, not worth ruining your chances on grass, and you hardly get any points anyway. Deep six it. Find other ways to stay match-tough.

Random Photo of the Day. Ahh, that rant felt good to type. Now back to Brooklyn, here is a tag-free photo of her attending the Vogue Fashion Fund in NYC in November.


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Updated December 2, 2008

I hope our American friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Continuing on the story behind Roddick hiring Stefanki as his coach, a lot of fans were wondering "What about Gonzo?" As far as anyone knew, Stefanki was still under contract with Fernando Gonzalez and Gonzo gave no indication on his blog that he knew Stefanki had been hired by Roddick, instead of the USTA, which he originally thought.

"Stefanki Not Hired by USTA to Coach Roddick" [TR.net]:
There has been some confusion caused by a recent Fernando Gonzalez blog, where the Chilean says that he was told that his now former coach, Larry Stefanki, was hired by the USTA and in a LTA-Brad Gilbert type of deal where he would be coaching Andy Roddick with USTA supervision. No such deal exists. Roddick privately hired Stefanki. [. . .] Apparently, Roddick’s management informed Gonzo that it was a USTA deal, maybe to soften the blow and also possibly to convince Gonzalez to let Stefanki out of his contract six months early. Stefanki was signed up to coach Gonzalez through ’09 Roland Garros. [. . .] Stefanki is a very talkative sort who might be a bit too chatty for Andy (remember that Roddick eventually tuned out Brad Gilbert) but at least he stands by his men for a substantial period of time, unlike Jimmy Connors, who abandoned Roddick when the going got tough earier this year.


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Updated November 24, 2008

More About The Stefanki-Roddick Partnership

UK Times Online:
Stefanki, 51, says that Roddick, having called him two days after pulling out of the Masters Cup in Shanghai with an ankle injury was "so pumped up I want to get going now. Can you be here tomorrow?" "Hold on," he replied "I'm going to the Big Game on Saturday. This isn't like Texas vs. Texas A&M," he said, in reference to the state where Roddick has made his home, "this is Cal vs. Stanford (the biggest college football game in the Bay State).

And so Roddick will have to wait another week to get down to work. Stefanki is just as eager. "Andy Roddick is the best server in tennis," said Stefanki, "and not only does he have the biggest serve in the game, he gets 68 percent of his first serves in. He held serve 91 percent of the time this year. That's an amazing stat. He just doesn't get broken very often. But (he pauses here) he's No.20 on return of serve.

"Confidence is built on the right mechanics and having the right philosophy. Andy, especially on second serve returns, needs to get more aggressive. Not necessarily going for everything, but not just sitting back and returning the ball. He's not a David Ferrer 5'9" road-runner. You've got to take more risks and unless you do you're not going to create that presence you want on the court." [. . .]

Was Stefanki surprised to receive Roddick's call? "A year ago, when Fernando made the Masters, we had dinner together - me, Andy and his brother, John. We talked largely about ATP politics. He had some interesting suggestions and he wanted to know what I thought. Then, this year, after he beat Fernando at the US Open (6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in the fourth round), I told him: 'That was the best I've ever seen you play.' I think maybe that conversation stuck in his mind. Now I'm absolutely overjoyed. I haven't been this excited in a long time, especially knowing he's even more excited about getting started."

Like most Roddick fans I am "cautiously optimistic" about this new partnership. Cautious, because we've been down this road before and recognize the pattern: Roddick will be energized and play lights-out for a few months, but after one or two bad losses he'll stagnate and then fall back into old bad habits; Optimistic, because an infusion of new ideas and new blood is always good to have on hand just before a slam right around the corner. I'm eager to see what magic Stefanki can work on Andy.

While we're on the subject of Andy's coaches: Jimmy Connors was recently arrested after refusing to comply with an order to leave an area near the entrance of the Thunderdome following a confrontation at a men's basketball game.

Jimmy defended himself, releasing a statement saying in part:
“Jimmy said he wanted to stay and wait for his son to watch the game, and as a result was taken into custody,” the statement said. “Police told Jimmy that he was being taken into custody for ‘being a non-student refusing to leave the campus.’ Jimmy is extremely disappointed and embarrassed about the way the situation was handled.”

Whatever, Jimmy.


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Breaking news from AR.com:
Team Roddick is thrilled to announce that Larry Stefanki will be joining Andy on the road as his head coach.
Stefanki was most recently the coach of Fernando Gonzalez. Click the AR.com link to read all about it.

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Updated November 21, 2008

Roddick and Blake are not chokers, says Jim Courier

Jim Courier is in Dubai for the Legends Rock event and has dismissed suggestions that Andy Roddick and James Blake are underachieving 'chokers' in a recent interview:
"With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal around life has definitely become difficult, but I think it's a dangerous assertion to say that those guys [Roddick and Blake] are choking."

Courier said Roddick would have won more than his 26 career titles to date, including one Grand Slam, had he not been part of the era in which tennis was dominated by Federer and Nadal.

"I think Roddick has had an incredible career so far," said the 38-year-old Courier, who won 23 career titles, including four Grand Slams, during his 12-year career. "I think he's an over-achiever. He won the US Open in 2003, reached No 1 in the world and has also won the Davis Cup. These are things some players only dream of, so I get a little disturbed whenever it is suggested that he's under-achieving and choking. People need to look at the guys he's faced throughout his career. He's been up against Roger Federer, who is simply the best player I've ever seen; the most complete player ever. Timing is everything in life and unfortunately for them their peak coincided with the peak of Federer and Nadal, so it's very, very challenging for them."
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Updated November 21, 2008

Rafa Watch

Jon Wertheim has apparently given up trying to get Roger Federer named as Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, so this year he nominated Rafael Nadal, perhaps thinking that would confuse the committee into actually voting for a tennis player as Sportsman of the Year. No tennis player has won SI's Sportsman of the Year award since Chris Evert in 1976.

Right now Rafa is on vacation enjoying the sun and sand and resting his battered knees. He will not be playing in this weekend's Davis Cup final vs Argentina. Talk about a buzz-kill.

Rafa named one of GQ magazine's Men of the Year

The accolades for Rafa continue to pour in. (right-click for larger image).


Monday, November 10, 2008

Is The Tennis Season Over Yet?

Updated November 16, 2008

Brooklyn (and Andy) on the Dan Patrick Show

Brooklyn did a radio interview recently talking about a new Sports Illustrated photoshoot and halfway through they decided to give Andy a ring in Shanghai. Good stuff.
Brooklyn Decker
The Sports Illustrated model issue talks about Dan's role in the upcoming swimsuit issue and mediates as Dan argues with her fiance Andy Roddick on the phone.
Listen to Brooklyn on the Dan Patrick Show here.

Thanks to Kate for finding the link.

Andy and Brooklyn's Wedding Plans

USA Weekend:
We told you yesterday that our Dennis McCafferty is in Charlotte, N.C. today for a cover story shoot involving Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and NASCAR drivers. (Yes, we always give him the tough duty.) Well, who should show up with the models today but tennis great Andy Roddick, who is engaged to model Brooklyn Decker. Roddick was just casually hanging out and reading The Wall Street Journal while the ladies were getting ready so, ever the good reporter, Dennis asked Andy about the couple's wedding plans. He learned that while there is no date yet, the ceremony is to take place in Austin, Texas, where Roddick has a home, and that Decker is being cool about the whole thing. "She's certainly no bridezilla," Roddick says.

Djokovic Defeats Davydenko for TMC Crown

From worst to first, the Faker defeated the Fixer 6-1 7-5. It wasn't the most exciting or memorable TMC final ever, but it's a great win for Djokovic who has been low on confidence in the second half of the season. He bookends the 2008 year, starting with the Australian Open win in January and finishing with the Masters Cup in November.

With this win Djokvoic finishes the year at number three. Had he defeated Tsonga in the third round robin he would have knocked Federer from the number two spot. As it stands now, they are only ten points apart in the rankings and Novak could still overtake Federer before the Australian Open begins Jan. 19, 2009.

Andy Roddick finishes his year at number eight.

Angry Djokovic Fan Flames Jon Wertheim

Speaking of Djokovic, did anybody see this hilarious letter that was published in the SI mailbag a few weeks ago? I don't know what's funnier, the fact that they even published this letter or that Wertheim actually knew what a Fedtard was. LOL.
Hey, Jon, seeing as how you're a Fedtard, if you really think Roger's win over Novak Djokovic in the USO semis was so big then why didn't you consider the fact that Djokovic shot himself in the foot by attacking the N.Y. crowd, thereby stressing himself out in the semis? There's no doubt Novak came out flat-footed and uninspired during that match, he clearly was afraid of upsetting the crowd again. I'll bet you won't publish this comment, or even mention this fact in future mailbags. We all know how biased you are. -- Anonymous

WERTHEIM: You really have to respect the courage of someone who sends an anonymous letter to a Q/A column about tennis. Just so we're straight: I am a biased "Fedtard" because ... I asserted that Federer's win over Djokovic was meaningful. And then I neglected to mention the point -- totally irrelevant to the question -- that Djokovic had "shot himself in the foot by attacking the N.Y. crowd?" Where to begin? Start with this: I have too much respect for Djokovic to accuse him of playing "uninspired" tennis in a Grand Slam semifinal because he is afraid of upsetting the crowd.

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Updated November 15, 2008

TMC Final: The Fixer vs The Faker

Shanghai will crown a new year-end champion this year. Raise your hand if you predicted this unlikely final between the guy who was accused of fixing matches by the ATP last year or the guy who scolded the entire US Open crowd for believing that he was faking his injuries.

Both players have had a mediocre second-half of the year after winning titles in the first half (Novak winning AO, Indian Wells, and Rome, and Davydenko shocking everybody by beating Nadal to win Miami). Personally, I would like to see Novak win. I think it would be good for his confidence to finish his year with a TMC shield. For Davydenko, winning TMC would be his highest career achievement to date, and perhaps some personal vindication of his place in the top five.

The final begins at 4:00pm local Shanghai time. Check this clock to get times in your area. Visit justin.tv to get live streams.

Here's new video of Andy signing autographs for fans just before he announced his withdrawal from TMC:

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Updated November 14, 2008

Is The King Dead? Or Just Sleeping?

Bah. I was rooting for Roger. His year has been quite the annus horribilis. But as Roddick himself has said, every player would love to have Roger's year, except for Roger himself. In fact, he's downright miserable about his demotion to world number two:
"When they (court announcers) say 'This is the world No. 2' it just doesn't sound right to me because either I'm No. 1 or I'm a grand slam champion," Federer said. "I'm not world No. 2. I just don't like the ring of it when I'm introduced on court. It just sounds awkward to me because I've been up there for so, so long it just sounds unfamiliar."

This sounds more arrogant than it really is. There were quite a few broadcasters, both here and internationally, who kept correcting themselves when they started to announce Roger as "the world number one." This is indeed unfamiliar territory. 2008 has wreaked havoc on the ATP. I have a feeling that 2009 won't get any better for Roger. Or Andy. Or Rafa. Seriously, how can Rafa top himself in 2009 after such a brilliant year? And will our Andy finally grab that elusive second slam or has his time come and gone? Oh questions, many questions, for 2009.

Don't look now but the TMC semifinals are comprised of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Gilles Simon, and Nikolay Davydenko. How hard would you laugh (or cry) if the likes of Simon or Davydenko walked away with the TMC trophy? For me: if Simon wins, I laugh. If Davydenko wins, I cry. And then I give up watching tennis.

"Bring me my towel, you slug!"

Say It Ain't So, Jo! The Best Worst Excuse I've Heard Yet

Speaking of laughing and crying, I was prepared to hand James Blake the award for "Best Worst Tennis Excuse of the Year" for blaming TV commentators for the way he played at the French Open this year but then Jo-Wilfried Tsonga went all Djokovic on us and came up with this beauty when he lost to Davydenko in his first round robin match:
"I lost a lot of energy, because when I asked for my towel, my towel didn't come. Sometimes in this match, I lost energy with that. Sometimes I have to take my towel alone, so for me, it's maybe 10 meters [33 feet] more. But if you count at the end of the match, it's like one kilometer [0.62 miles]."

That ought to tone down the Tsonga-walks-on-water rhetoric from the tennisheads for a while.

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Updated November 12, 2008

Roddick Sprains Ankle During Practice, Withdraws from Masters Cup

Can this guy ever catch a break? Luckily it's not serious and it shouldn't interfere with his off-season training.

Watch Andy's withdrawal announcement here.

From the AP:
Andy Roddick has withdrawn from the Masters Cup after spraining his right ankle during practice - an injury that he said did not appear to be serious.

Roddick made the announcement Wednesday, hours before he was to play Roger Federer in a Red Group match. He was replaced in the tournament by 26th-ranked Radek Stepanek, the first alternate here.

Roddick said he rolled the ankle during a warmup drill for practice Tuesday and initially hoped treatment would allow him to play, but he realized during his pre-match warmup that he couldn't run or serve well enough.

"I came out here and tried to warm up 45 minutes or so ago, and it was pretty apparent that my movement was probably 30 per cent or 40 per cent," he said.

"Unfortunately that's just not good enough to get it done at a tournament like this," Roddick said. "I didn't feel like I could go out and try to compete and win a tennis match. It's definitely a tough prospect trying to beat Roger with no serve and not being able to move much.

"The risk/reward wasn't there. You're risking further injury where it might cut into preparation for next year."

Roddick said his trainer and a doctor told him the injury didn't appear to be serious, and he anticipated being able to do his planned training during the off-season.

"I don't think we're looking at anything more than a week or so," he said. "I was planning on going home anyway. Basically I'm just starting that process four days earlier by not being able to finish here."

Stepanek, of the Czech Republic, could qualify for the semifinals but would have to win both of his matches and hope no more than one of the other players in his group finish with two victories.

"I called him this morning at about 10:00 or 10:30 and said, 'You should prepare like you're going to play. I'm probably 50/50 to play tonight, and I'll let you know as soon as I try to warm up,"' Roddick said.

The 26-year-old Roddick has been hampered by injuries this year, twice sitting out a month - the first after retiring from the Rome Masters in early May after just three games with a shoulder injury.

"Hopefully I have all these nicknack injury things out of way," Roddick said. "They've been pretty frustrating. I feel like I've been playing catchup a little bit ... as far as not being prepared and ready. So I'm very much looking forward to getting healthy and actually having some time to try to get fit again and be prepared going forward next year."

One thing the early departure does is allow him to focus on acquiring a new coach. He split with Jimmy Connors earlier this year, and had since been working with his brother John.

"There's a short list," Roddick said without naming any candidates. "I didn't want to start going through the process of talking to people either over the phone or in person until my season was finished. That's something that I'd definitely like to get taken care of in the next couple weeks."

Roddick, who was making his sixth straight Masters Cup appearance, is a former No. 1 who has been no lower than 12th in the rankings since 2002.

Radek Stepanek took Andy's place, and Roger defeated him 7-6(4) 6-4. Stepanek is ranked 27 in the world. Eighteen other players ranked higher than Stepanek did not want to play in Shanghai! James Blake (10) and David Nalbandian (11) had both made clear that they were not interested in being alternates this year.

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, who won both of their matches, are into the semis.

Highlights of the Roddick/Murray match can be viewed here.

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Originally posted November 10, 2008

Is The Tennis Season Over Yet?

Zzz. What tennis?

I don't know about you all but my brain checked out from tennis about a month ago. More and more every year I grow to really dislike the end of season. Everybody's tired, injured, wiped out, doesn't care, whatever. Does anybody else find the indoor season to be utterly depressing? It looks depressing. On TV everything looks gray and the colors are muted, even the players look dreary. Stands are so empty you can hear the sound of the ball echo. They play to sitting-room-only audiences with maybe a handful of fans quietly watching, giving no indication that they care who wins or loses or if they even know what's going on. The season is just too damn long. Need more proof? Rafael Nadal had to pull out of the Davis Cup final with Argentina because his knee just can't take it anymore; Roger Federer is taking painkillers for his back and just lost to Gilles Simon today, putting Federer's fans in more agony; Andy Murray is whining about being tired, continuing to train the UK to have low expectations for him; Del Potro, in his first year at TMC, looks like someone told him to go sit in the corner. The only one who truly seems happy to be there is Gilles Simon. Allez, Simon!

Announcing: The Top Seven Players in the World. Thanks for Coming, Andy.

Andy Roddick is the Invisible Man.

Not only am I grumpy because tennis is still going on when it should have ended by now, but also because our main man Andy Roddick couldn't be bothered to show up in time for the portrait. Personally, I love these portraits and look forward to seeing Andy in it every year but this year he couldn't make it in time, for whatever reason. With the way Andy's year has gone, and the fact that he continues to fall down the rankings by a notch or two every year, I am certain that this may be his last trip to TMC. And with him missing from the portrait, well, it feels almost prophetic. The thought of no more Andy at TMC makes me sad.

TMC Red Group
Murray def. Roddick 6-4 1-6 6-1

Well start, Andy! /sarcasm/ Federer is up next for him. Federer has a bad back and can't serve but I'm sure he'll suddenly feel 100% better once he sees Andy across the net from him.

This entire post today has been rather depressing, hasn't it? Here's some happy stuff to read:

News Items

"Fast-talking tennis players" [ATP Tennis]
"Andy [Roddick] will spit facts at you quickly, but it's not as constant like James and not so choppy. There is a rhythm. I love his wit and how he deals with the press. He doesn't let them get away with silly questions."

"Roddick to play tennis nude for $15,000!" ... Psyche out!, never mind, Roddick chickens out:
"It was kind of said in jest and the lady who bid on it was really cool afterward, saying her main concern was helping the cause." Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that Roddick "originally was going to auction a private, hour-long tennis lesson to the highest bidder. Then, to sweeten the deal, he offered to take off his shirt for the 'one-on-one instruction.' Finally, the recently engaged Roddick offered to give the lesson — fully nude! Winning bid: $15,000 from a female fan."

"Roddick's still a grinder" [James Martin, ESPN.com]
How does Andy Roddick do it? All he does is perform well year after year, beating the players he should, trying to win every time out. He's tennis' version of a grinder, writes Tennis.com's James Martin....Roddick is one of the most consistent, and consistently overlooked, top performers on the men's tour. [...] What does Roddick's record tell us about him? For one thing, it reveals a player who is mentally engaged for every tournament he enters, a canny competitor who understands that he has to earn his ranking points anywhere he can get them. Roddick knows his limitations all too well. Indeed, can you remember a top-ranked player who has taken so much flak for his shortcomings, which in Roddick's case are his hacker's backhand and choppy volleys? I can't. Yet he ably compensates for these weaknesses by relying not only on his celebrated serve, but also his gritty, if sometimes grating, mindset that sees him through so many matches.

"Are we too focused on Roddick's failures?" [Sandra Harwitt, ESPN.com]
It could be said that if it weren't for Roger Federer, Andy Roddick could be displaying at least three Grand Slam trophies at home instead of being a guy with only one major victory. So what? Why does the No. 7 Roddick get a bum rap when he has proved to be a hard-working, dedicated player who readily accepts challenges?

"All hail Andy Roddick, the nice guy of the ATP tour" [Neil Harmon, Times Online]
It is about time that Andy Roddick's contribution to men's tennis in the past nine years on the ATP Tour received full and unequivocal respect and the Net Post does not mean it should happen now just because of the gesture, when he lifted the China Open yesterday - the 26th title of his career - to donate $25,000 of his prize money to those still suffering after May's catastrophic earthquake in the country's Sichuan Province. He has deserved his panegyric for a long time.

This is a rare positive article coming from the UK press. Be sure to leave Neil a nice word in the comments section.

"Who's got the power? Tennis power rankings for the month of October" [ESPN.com]
Andy Roddick reportedly offered to give a tennis lesson in the nude to the highest bidder at a charity event this month, drawing a $15,000 offer from a female fan. Roddick, engaged to swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, later said he was joking about the nude part. Clothed, Roddick had a successful Asian swing, winning a title in China and making the semis in Japan.

You may have missed them: Andy and Brooklyn in New York

Another coffee run from last month.

Dog duty, same day.

Thanks to Marion for the links!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Djokovic Socks it to Roddick...and the NY Crowd

Updated September 10, 2008

Federer Laughed at Roddick's "Bird Flu" Joke

As reported by the Star-Ledger:
Roger Federer revealed he loved Andy Roddick's jokes about Novak Djokovic, claiming he suffered from "bird flu" and the common cold -- a dig at Djokovic's many ailments that led to a small tirade by the Serb on court (and a torrent of boos) after he beat Roddick in the quarterfinals.

"I thought it was quite entertaining myself, being from the outside," Federer said. "I wouldn't love to have been Djokovic, myself. But it's a tough situation. Andy played a great joke on him. You've got to give it up to Andy. It's unbelievable."

LOL. Think maybe there's some underlying tension between Roger and Novak? I noticed some passive-aggressive verbal sparring going on between them at the US Open:
Q. Last year in the finals you met with Djokovic. There's a chance you might see him again soon. He's changed over the year, not imitating so much on the court. How is it different now if you were to play him compared to playing him year ago in the finals?

ROGER FEDERER: Only played twice since, Australian Open and Monaco. We haven't played that much really. He gave up in Monaco, which was only one set on clay.

Q. On that note, you always seem to speak with tremendous sportsmanship, especially about some of the younger players coming up through the ranking. Is that something maybe as a statesman now you feel a responsibility to do?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, Rafa I always knew he was going to be a great player from the first moment I played him on. And I think Novak's done a incredible job of improving because I wasn't that impressed from Novak in the first place when I played him in Monaco. But Rafa, from the first moment, I knew he was going to be unbelievable.

And then Djokovic said this after he lost to Federer at USO:
The Serb, beaten by Federer in last year's U.S. Open final, had no complaints about the New York crowd on a humid day at Flushing Meadows.

"I think they were pretty fair," he said. "It was obvious that they are on his side because he's the ex number one and still the second best player in the world. He's defending champ here four times and people love him. He deserves that support."

I'm sure there are a few of you out there thinking, "What's so bad about these quotes?" and you wouldn't be wrong, maybe I'm looking for something that's not there, but I really feel that word choice is important when communicating. For instance, instead of saying Novak "gave up" during their match in Monaco (gave up=quit) Roger could have simply said "Novak retired". See? Harmless. But instead he chose to needle Novak, who is in fact notorious for quitting too many matches.

Same with Novak, he could have been more gracious and said "Roger is a great champion so of course the crowd will support him." But he didn't. Novak knows that keeping the world number one rank was important to Roger, so he rubbed salt in the wound by calling him "the EX number one." Zing!

These guys are smart and their grasp of English is excellent, so there's no reason to believe that this is some kind of lost-in-translation thing. No doubt, these are personal digs, and personally, I love a good bad blood fight.
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Updated September 5, 2008

Djokovic def Roddick 6-2 6-3 3-6 7-6(5)

You know that expression, "Be careful what you wish for, you may get it?" That totally applies to the match we just saw. We got the theater, the drama, some good match play (when they weren't choking or just pushing the ball around), and one of the most bizarre oncourt interviews I've ever seen. Talk about falling out of favor in a heartbeat. This is the same crowd Djokovic had eating out of his hand just last year. And now he leaves the court to boos as tennis' new villain. For the first time in years, I think Roger Federer can expect to have close to 100% of the crowd behind him when he faces Djokovic in the semis on Saturday. Everybody get your popcorn ready.

The link to Roddick's complete presser is here.
Q. You've clearly ticked him off with comments about SARS and bird flu and everything. He took himself to bring it up in front of a stadium that booed him loudly and even Michael tried to steer it and he just kept it going. Is that a bad call on his part?

ANDY RODDICK: Well, I mean, listen, here's the deal: I mean, if you guys haven't ever seen me joke in a press conference, I'd be shocked, okay?

I think you guys know it was completely meant in jest. Listen, I had four questions from each one, I had eight questions about all the other ones. Finally after 12 questions I decided to make light of the situation and it actually stopped after that. Or it screwed me up and you guys got me out of it.

I'm willing to talk about it. I don't know if, you know ‑‑ he took it as seriously. I figure if you're going to joke and imitate other people and do the whole deal, then you should take it. Listen, if someone makes fun of me I'm most likely going to laugh. If I'm over the line I'm going to come in here and say I was ridiculous. And I was wrong. I've been the worst of it in the past. By no means am I sitting here trying to be holier than thou or anything like that. But I promise you that if somebody makes a joke about it I'll probably laugh.

I'm sorry he took it that way. There's nothing else to say. I don't think I was over the line. It wasn't my intention, and, you know, I'm sorry he felt that way. Maybe I did him a favor tonight.

Q. It was our comments back and forth, and to be honest with you, today I heard from five or six or seven people, I heard it on ESPN, I heard it on USA, those types of things have legs, whether you like it...

ANDY RODDICK: I should know better, but listen, I joke all the time. I don't think anybody in their right mind takes me serious. I think it's very clear when I give a serious answer and when I don't give a serious answer.

Maybe that part ‑‑ maybe I should know better, you know, but in my eyes it's an innocent comment. I felt that most people found it funny and I tried to build it up ‑‑ if you look at the transcript, I'm saying, I'm 3, he's 8. It's straightforward. I'm trying to build it up as like I'm the favorite. I said listen, if you want to go last 10 days or go the last 10 months, he's been the best hardcourt player. I'm throwing truthful things the whole time. If someone wants to focus in on that and use it, then by all means, but especially in Novak's case, if you're going to dish out all the stuff, then be able to take it with a smile, is the only part that I don't quite agree with.

Q. Have you had an opportunity to talk to him afterward?

ANDY RODDICK: Anything that's going to be said between Novak and I is going to stay between Novak and I because I'm not going to air out private conversations in front of you guys, because I just don't feel like that's necessary.

The link to Djokovic's complete presser is here.
Q. Andy, I mean, based on the comments on the court, Andy clearly upset you, angered you with some of the comments that became public. Was that a factor? How much were you angered by those comments?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Now, look, I had a very, very tough day yesterday. Physically I was feeling very exhausted and very empty.

I wasn't able to practice. One of the reasons was physically that, you know, I was exhausted and the other reason was that I just mentally had a lot of pressure.

Unfortunately, Andy made a statement ‑‑ I don't think it was intentional, okay. He made a joke and it was a misunderstanding, so I don't blame it on him. Okay. I did react on the court. Maybe I reacted. Maybe I exaggerated and reacted bad in that moment. No, I apologize if I reacted like that. But this was just impulsive, you know.

I had a lot of emotions in last two days. It's not nice when you get that from media all around the world and from players, and I never needed to make any excuses in the press. I just didn't need ‑‑ because I know that what I'm doing is right, that I have all the rights to take the medical timeout, that I'm doing it just for the purpose to make my physical condition better and just that I continue playing better.

I never made medical timeout because I wanted to distract the player, the opponent, or, you know, make the result look worse, you know.

And I just never did it. I didn't pay attention when I took the medical timeout. I just didn't care about it. Medical timeout is there because physiotherapist are there and doctors are there to help you out. This is what I did. I just took the medicals to help me out.

Maybe the people think that I'm exaggerating with these things, but it's just ‑‑ it's nothing bad, nothing negative, because I just ‑‑ I twist my ankle, I feel bad, you know. I get the pain in the back.

I just want to make it right, you know. Andy was always nice to me when I got to the tour, so this was just a clear misunderstanding.

Q. Have you spoken to Andy in the locker room already?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, but this is just between us.

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Updated September 4, 2008

US Open: It's Showtime!

This was the headline on ESPN's front page (click on image to read accompanying story). Boy, am I looking forward to this match. I think a lot of tennis fans are. Two intense guys who are somewhat similar in temperment should make for good theater. I will be curious to see how Djokovic is feeling after skipping out on a practice session yesterday to rest. I know for a fact that Roddick will come out guns blazing, as per usual.

The media is having a field day trying to create tension between the two players but I don't see it. Andy's mocking of Novak's injuries wasn't done in a mean-spirited way and he wasn't accusing Novak of faking either. It's just that Novak has a flair for the dramatic, much like his countrywoman Jelena Jankovic. I personally have nothing wrong with dramatic types, they make watching tennis all the more interesting and fun. After the rather anti-climatic Gonzalez match, I'm hoping Djokovic will be fit and cured of his ailments and put up a better fight tonight. Andy needs to be pushed. If Andy should beat Novak tonight, Federer awaits him in the seminfinal, and then it'll be either Nadal or Murray in the final. A tall task but not impossible. Good luck, Andy!

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Updated August 30, 2008

R16: Roddick def Gonzalez 6-2 6-4 6-1
R32: Roddick def Seppi 6-2 7-5 7-6(4)
R64: Roddick def Gulbis 3-6 7-5 6-2 7-5

This result made me so happy I made a happy gif. Enjoy!

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Updated August 28, 2008

R128: Roddick def Santoro 6-2 6-2 6-2

Boy, do I love watching Andy play when he plays like that, like his old bully self again. That's the kind of intense, focused, power playing that made me a Roddick fan. Well done, Andy! Play exactly like that for the next six matches, please.

“I'm an Andy Roddick fan.” — John McEnroe, commentating on last night's match.

Up next will be Ernest Gulbis, who shares the same birthday as Andy (August 30). Too bad they're not playing that day. They've never played before but I think Gulbis, another big hitter, could pose problems for Andy. Andy needs to bully Ernie around exactly the way he did Fabrice; he needs to take it to him and not stand around waiting for Ernie to screw up or fade away. That's a mistake Andy has made too many times before.

There was some controversy at the end of the match when Andy accidentally hit Santoro with a 140mph serve. Santoro took it personally and refused to play the last point. Andy was apologetic but he really didn't need to apologize. Whether he meant to serve to Fabrice's body or not, it is a legal serve. You can download the video here (in English) (thanks to cardio for the video). Or you can watch it on YouTube here (in French).

Filling in as Andy's temporary coach, Patrick McEnroe is batting a perfect 1000 so far.

Related News Items

"Great for a Day Under P-Mac: Roddick Blasts Santoro Under Temporary Coach" [TR.net]
"Roddick didn’t have a lot of time to try and bring in a new coach, so he turned to McEnroe, who is heading USTA Player Development and also doing commentary for CBS here. He hasn’t even thought about who is next full-time coach will be, but the man who has helped steer him in Davis Cup over the past seven years was the perfect choice in Flushing. McEnroe can push him a bit and knows most of the right levers too pull. "I think Patrick is the absolute best, obvious short term solution for me at this event." said Roddick."

"Roddick takes the fast train to 2nd round: despite pressure, U.S. star composed in opening match" [NBC Sports]
Andy Roddick played like he couldn’t wait to catch the No. 7 train back to the city, grabbing his ticket and leaving Fabrice Santoro on the platform 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, in his most impressive performance this summer. He put on a serving clinic (averaging almost 130 mph on first serves) and a detonating forehand whenever he had the opportunity. I was thoroughly impressed with Roddick’s complete performance in the last men’s match of the U.S. Open first round. The scattergun shots that often plague his game never appeared. He simply was magic against the player known as the Magician.

"Once No. 1-ranked player on the planet trying to regain form" [ESPN]
Two camera crews and several dozen fans were waiting for Andy Roddick when he arrived at the practice courts on Tuesday afternoon. "Andy! Andy! Andy!" shrieked several small autograph seekers. Roddick, moving with a casual ease, smiled and flashed one of those cute, quick, finger-to-palm waves. "I'll be back," he said, without a trace of irony. But will he, in the rhetorical sense, ever regain the place he once held in tennis?

"Best Laid Plans of Andy Roddick Have Gone Awry" [NY Sun]
It's easy to forget how novel Roddick's serve, and its abbreviated, violent delivery, was when he turned pro in 2000. Back then, Roddick was the Joba Chamberlain of tennis — a tall, powerful 18-year-old from Nebraska with a fastball like no one else in the sport. His serve regularly approached 140 mph, unthinkable in tennis at that time. (In 2004, he set the record that stands today, 155 mph.) Roddick finished his first season ranked no. 158 in the world, but it was clear he would eventually become one of the game's best players.

"Facing Forward: Roddick into back half of career" [Tennis.com]
He’s heartfelt, sincere, and realistic; more humble than one might expect, yet also a mite edgy— defiant, you could say, in a way that fuels the sentiments of Roddick’s fans as well as his detractors. Critics of Roddick have never been in short supply, driven by a tsunami of resentments. Roddick’s meat-andpotatoes power game, in an era dominated by the artistic Federer, is found wanting by those who prefer to see tennis as a performance occasionally hampered by the presence of a rude opponent. His lead-with-the-chin honesty is strong medicine in an image conscious time. Roddick can’t resist the acid wisecrack, he’s overtly patriotic, and that isn’t just his heart on his sleeve—it’s his testosterone, too.

"Andy Roddick Interview - US Open, Aug 27" [Tennis-X]
Q. How did you and John come to your decision that it was time to make changes?

ANDY RODDICK: We just met in Washington afterwards, and, you know, I think John's, he's been feeling the effects of the road for a little while. When we first got together, it was temporary, you know. And he was kind of just helping me out and was going to help, and then all of a sudden it's two‑and‑a‑half years later. I think he was spent, and I was struggling, and so it was a very ‑‑ it was an easy conversation, you know. He was just like, "I'm kind of tapped," and it's pretty intense day to day, and I'm pretty intense day to day. It's probably not the easiest.

More updates later.
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Originally posted August 25, 2008

I apologize for the lack of updates. Tennis-wise, my head has been spinning since spring and the number of tennis stories to keep up with has been overwhelming. Is it my imagination or did the world just suddenly wake up and realize that tennis can be an exciting sport? Thank you to the casual sports fans for finally tuning in, and to the US media for finally waking up to one of the best rivalry in sports. Unfortunately everybody jumped on the bandwagon three years too late. For all we know the Wimbledon final may have been the peak of the Federer/Nadal rivalry and it'll be downhill from here on out. At least Federer finally got the Sports Illustrated cover that his fans have been whining about for years. Albeit, it's not a very flattering photo; it shows Roger from behind flailing at a ball, and our focus is directed towards Rafa, but who cares? Tennis is on the cover of SI! (click here to read the cover story). In the US where tennis is a niche sport, this is momentous! So thanks to Roger and Rafa for finally getting American couch potatoes to pay attention to tennis. The bad news is that thanks to the added exposure and hype, the crowds at the US Open this year are going to be absolutely hellish and I thought they were pretty bad last year. I'm not looking forward to crush, but attending the USO is a must for me.

Andy and Novak goofing off at Arthur Ashe Kids Day, 2008

I have been begging Andy to impersonate Novak and he finally obliges me. I'm glad Novak obliged the audience too because he had said earlier this year that he was no longer going to do player impersonations because he didn't want to offend anybody (read: Federer and Nadal, both of whom were not happy with his joking on them at last year's US Open). Luckily, Andy doesn't appear to suffer from the same "stick-up-my-arse" problem that Rafa and Roger have. Maybe Novak should just stick to doing Andy and Maria impersonations, they seem to be the only two players who have a sense of humor about it.

You can download the entire segment here at rapidshare.

Speaking of sense of humor, check out this hilarious promo for the US Open, where the WWE's Undertaker puts a petulant Andy Roddick in his place.

Undertaker vs Roddick

Related News Items

"US Open: A Fashion Battle" [ESPN magazine]
"Have you seen what Blake is wearing?" Andy Roddick says to a friend as he struts through the halls of USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Saturday afternoon wearing an "I love AZ" hat, khaki shorts and white tee. "He is wearing man Capris. They look like parachutes. I can't believe it."

"Five Questions with Andy Roddick" [Tennis Week]
"I watched the Olympics every night. It’s great. What Phelps has done is amazing, and I’ve even watched the women’s gymnastics. I love watching the Olympics."

"Andy Roddick Answers Your Questions" [Sports Illustrated]
"The Wimbledon final this year was amazing. It seemed like it was all anyone was talking about for a couple of days, which was nice, considering it happened in Europe. Coming home and hearing people excited about it was a great thing."

"Roddick Looks to Reignite Former Glory" [USA Today]
It would be unfair to lump eighth-ranked Roddick in with some of the other so-called One-Slam Wonders such as Petr Korda, Thomas Johansson or Albert Costa, says former American star Michael Chang. "I don't think you can put Andy into that category," says Chang. If Roddick hasn't been fortunate enough to cross the finish line at a major, it's not for lack of effort. Many in the sport say he is among the hardest workers on tour.

"Roddick: 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction'" [Inside Tennis]
“I could probably coast and not train and be a top-10 player and kind of have a cushy lifestyle and be set for as long as I need to be set for. But I don’t know if that appeals to me. I don’t know if I’m satisfied with that.”

"The Wall Street Journal catches up with Andy Roddick" [You Tube]

Andy at Taste of Tennis

Andy at Macy's Celebrating Lacoste's 75th Anniversary

"Andy's Roddick's Vision" [Lacoste]

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