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" []
"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" []
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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