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.