Saturday, March 08, 2008

Roddick Reigns In Dubai

Andy Roddick stepped out of his comfort zone. He ditched the American hardcourt scene where he tends to beat up on “nobodies” and headed to the Middle East where the big boys play. And he came out on top. In the best match of the event, he rallied from behind and took out an inspired Feliciano Lopez 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-2 to earn the Dubai Championships crown in his debut appearance.

Lindsay Davenport was the only other American to win this title until today. On the men’s side, no American has even made a final in the events 16-year history. Andy did it on his first try. And never even lost his serve.

Not two months ago, Roddick lost a five-setter to a future journeyman in the third round of the Australian Open. Today he makes tennis history. Sounds lofty, doesn't it? But it's true.

Eleven unforced errors. That’s all there were between the two combatants. Just eleven. But they struck 46 aces (24 for Lopez) and a total of 78 winners. It was the best tennis of the season that I’ve seen. From both sides of the net.

Feliciano’s serve is a thing of beauty. His slice backhand, a knife. His forehand, a spinning behemoth. Andy’s serve is a bomb infinite; his forehand, a bullet recovered. His backhand was so brilliant today that a commentator suggested he should have them all framed and hung in his house.

He never even faced a break point.

Is this the career resurgence tennis has been waiting for? I say tennis because Andy at his best (and sometimes at his not-so-best; see above) has been involved in some of the greatest battles the sport has seen dating back to the 2003 Australian Open.

As TheTruth wrote a few days ago:

You really have to give it to Andy, though, for his mental strength. He is in one of the worst positions of anyone on the tour. All American hopes have been pinned on him for the last seven years. He has been celebrated, overhyped, appeared to be making the hype a reality, then cut down to a stump, ostracized, ridiculed, and discarded. He had led the brigade, then been relegated to a spectator, and in all that, he has never given up the ghost, allowed anyone to define him, write his epitaph, or crumble under man-made pressure. He has slipped at times, but in every match he plays, he remains a warrior. All he needs is to regain the defiance, the passion, and the bravado, because one thing Andy Roddick has shown us all is...he's not going anywhere, and he won't be denied. Andy will write his own epitaph, and in the end, hopefully others will see his strength and tenacity and he will be lauded for the champion that he is. A true champion, who goes to war, may take some hits, but stays in the war until the battle is over.

Meantime, across the globe in a place called Bangalore, Serena Williams, my other favorite player, beat big sister Venus Williams 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4) in a semifinal match that lasted more than two hours. Serena won 117 points; Venus 115. They both won 58% of their serve points, which means they both won 42% of their return points. Both players held a match point. Serena closed it out on her third.

It doesn’t get any closer than that.

And yet, we couldn’t see it in the States. Not on the tube, not on the Internet.

I would say that I could spit bullets, but Andy’s biggest victory since the 2006 Cincinnati Masters keeps me smiling.

Battle on, warriors, battle on.


oddman said...

How wonderful! A great win by Andy - I am so thrilled for him!

Attaboy, Andy!

Karen said...

Congrats to all Andy fans and as a Fed fan I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I did think I told Craig earlier this year after I saw him play in San Jose that it was the best I have seen him play in a long time. He was really serving well, moving well, and he was coming in and basically playing very good tennis. I was rooting for him in the match against Stepanek and I was rooting for him when he played the Joker. I am very happy for him.

Savannah said...

Craig for once I can say I really enjoyed a hard court tennis match. It wasn't a serve fest. This match featured tactics, shotmaking and drama, all the things tennis needs and as you say, it came from both sides of the net. Lopez played the best I've seen him play in a very long time and I'm sure he realizes he does have the ability to stand toe to toe with the top hard court players. I hope he continues his hard work.

As for your boy he gets nothing but kudos from me. I saw a man playing today who has shaken off his demons, who said to the tennis world I'm not going anywhere and who showed that he is not to be thought of as cannon fodder by his peers anymore.

I saw that some Faker apologists are trying to downplay Dubai's importance calling it nothing more than a glorified exhibition. Uh-huh.

Congratulations to Andy and his long suffering fans.

tristann said...

I agree with Savannah. This was a high quality and highly enjoyable match. Congratulations on your man winning, Craig. It was well deserved and with some impressive victories on the way there.

I was also very impressed with Feli and I hope he can keep his game up.

Helen W said...

Congrats to Andy!

Here is a great response to the wave of criticism of Andy by writers such as Jon Wertheim by Justin Gimelstob

oddman said...

Thank you, helen w, that's a great article by Justin. And all true.

I really hope 2008 is a year of resurgence for Roddick.

Go, Andy!

MMT said...

Craig et alia - I'm sorry, but I have to beg to differ with Gimelstob.

Wertheim's piece WAS cheap seat psycho-analysis, for sure - not at all based on facts, but not for the reasons Gimelstob gave.

His problem is his false premises that (1) now Andy is worse than before (2) because he's jaded and (3) he was with Connors.

I beg to differ. He's as bad as he ever was, so (1) is invalid, and if (2) and (3) are based on (1) then they are too are baseless.

That said, Gimelstob's retort was seriously flawed. I don't know what goes through a man's mind or heart, but I can see with my own eyes, and hear with my own ears, and for that reason, what I hear and see is how he's judged.

Nobody's saying he's a bad person, just that he can behave like a huge jerk on court. No matter how nice a guy he is in general, it still merits criticism when he isn't on court!

And to compare him to other players with supposedly undeserved better reputations is like if one man kills a horse, and another kills an ant and we say, "well they're both cruelty to animals." There is such a thing as DEGREES of wrongdoing, and I don't believe I've ever seen any of his contemporairies hurling at their opponents and the officials as he so often does.

They may stare, and they may say something here and there, but it's competely different than what he did to Tsonga in 06, Stepanek in 07, Nishikori in 08, and countless officials along the way.

We have a right to condemn it more when he does it, IF we think it's worse than his contemporaries, and not simply say, well nobody's perfect.

Finally, ascribing it to passion implies other players are less passionate. It's neither true nor a good excuse. Okay, so this is how he expresses himself - fair enough - but then this is how he is condemned for it.

Of course it's no skin off his back; tomorrow he's still be a top 10 player and a millionaire (and yes a VERY nice guy) but if he does care, then maybe...just maybe...he'll take note of these complaints when things aren't going so great for him on the court.

I think Andy Roddick is a great person, a great tennis player ("first ballot" HOF, no, but a HOF nonetheless), who behaves terribly on court when it suits him. Definitely not as bad as McEnroe, and maybe not quite like Connors, but pretty close.

It is much ado about nothing because ultimately nobody gets hurt by it, so I don't think much needs to be done about it (except maybe more appropriate code violation penalties) but how much would you enjoy professional tennis if everyone acted as he does at his worse whenever they felt like it?

Personally not much, but this is America and we're free to disagree...well, you can disagree in a lot of other places too! :-)

Helen W said...

Hi mmt

I was not trying to excuse Andy's behaviour. Like you, I do not enjoy boorish behaviour on court, neither from players nor fans.

That being said, I though Jon Wertheim's criticism of Andy was way over the top, and I think that Justin's rejoinder adds a bit of balance.