Thursday, April 03, 2008

Yes He Can!

Today, I buried my horse and my dog cried. Today, Serena Williams overcame herself and a valiant opponent in Svetlana Kuznetsova and won a brilliant and thrilling three-set match to put herself in a position to tie Steffi Graf's record of five Sony Ericsson Open titles. Today, Andy Roddick defeated world No. 1 and perennial monkey-on-his-back Roger Federer in a brilliant and thrilling three-set match to give himself a shot at two. He fucking did it. He beat Raja. And I saw him do it. It was a phenomenal effort. So now the newly engaged Andy has victories over the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 players in the world in a matter of weeks.

Love is a beautiful thing.

I'm verklempt.

More later.



oddman said...

Wow, Craig, what a day it must have been for you. Glorious ups and devastating downs. So sorry about your horse, saw the pic on your other site, beautiful. (both of you). But, surely this win of Andy's has got to be the topper of it all for you. I'm so thrilled, I'm just grinning from ear to ear. Just like yesterday after Rafito's win over Blake.

Go Andy! You enjoy this, you had it coming, and I believed. YES!

rabbit said...

Congrats Craig! You must be ecstatic.

This season shows more than ever that Federer's utter domination for the last couple of years was due in large part to his now-absent game, much more so than mental dynamics. The mental dynamics do exist but they are caused by the tennis.

PeytonAllen said...

I missed it Craig I was at school tonight. Congrats. Two things, one I called this win earlier today. Can't prove it now, but I *almost* wrote you an email and said I just had a feeling he'd do it. Oh well.

Two, we can officially start the WTF is wrong with Fed threads. Mono or not he's been sliding since this time last year. All this talk about playing another ten years is bullcrap. Guys like that who dominate for that long and that hard, they fall fast.

This all started when he started courting Tiger Woods and finally stepped back to enjoy his greatest. I mean, just the mental strength it took day in and day out to kick that much ass was remarkable, but eventually the well had to dry up.

I've said until he loses in London or New York I still believe he's the #1 player, but right now he's spinning.

No titles heading into the clay court seasons. No finals as well, right?

Watch, this is the year he'll win the French. Come in people think he's dead and walk out with the French.

Congrats to Andy. You know he's getting slap drunk tonight. Huge monkey gone. What it must mean to him.

Who knows if he's playing better, but he's had some big wins this year. Good job Andy.

Helen W said...

rabbit is Roger's game really absent? I thought he played pretty well against Andy. He served well and hit some beautiful passing shots. His only real lapse of concentration was when he was broken in the 3rd set. This game was far different from when he lost against Fish, where he just wasn't around.

rabbit said...

helen_w, he played well in spurts but the sting in his shots was very much absent as well as the ability to raise his game when he needed. Federer of 2006 was not reluctant to hit winners off moonball rallies.

oddman said...

peytonallen, I have to confess I thought about messaging Craig all day today, esp. after I read one of his comments on his Serena post. I too had the feeling. But can't prove it either.
But I totally disagree with you that Fed's gonna take the French this year. Not unless Rafa is out with an injury.
(I hope Tonya Harding is unavailable, lol)

Craig Hickman said...

I think Federer played very well.

This isn't the first competitive match they've played. But Andy usually loses them.

Except tonight.

No excuses for Roger. Andy choked in the second set to get broken, just like Raja choked in the third to get broken. That's a wash.

But Andy held on to his late-match lead this time and finally closed out the match in a setting that counts.

It's been a long time between drinks.

Raja played well and lost.

It happens.

Andy played better.

Cate said...

Yeah, we should now speculate WTF is REALLY up with Roger.

Happy for Andy though... after, what 13-15 straight losses to Roger? LOL.

Paula said...

i'm so glad andy won. its been a long time coming but i agree with peytonallen...what is wrong with Raja...he's not himself is he?

but i'm also kinda hoping that this win is now what Andy needs to believe in himself that he can beat roger, at anytime, and will bring it when he needs to where ever he needs to...
a little bit of confidence goes along way i think.

chaos-theory08 said...

It doesn't matter.

The win-loss record is still 15-2. XD

Karen said...

Craig, congrats to Andy. He did well. He has been playing well all year. As to whether Roger played well. Matter of opinion. No way does Roger get broken at love. Does not happen. Has never happened. Will never happen. If you are of the view that this was TMF who was playing, clearly you are drinking too much Kool Aid. It was a good win for Andy, but come on, he almost choked in serving for the match. He needed 2 match points to put away a player who is not at his best right now. In any event, these losses will only ensure that Fed, whilst he may not have his A game is still a force to be reckoned with on the ATP tour.

oddman said...

Didn't Fed have four or five match points in Rome 06, couldn't put it away, and his opponent finished him off on his first match point? Andy did NOT choke serving it out, Fed hit some good returns there. Andy missed one. Good thing he had a couple more. And yes, Fed did get broken at love. Did happen.

C'mon, karen, Fed himself said he was feeling fine - 95% - that's pretty damn fine if you ask me. He's not making any excuses. Fair square win for Andy, totally deserved.

MMT said...

Here's a thought - Roddick didn't even play as well as he did in Dubai and won. Federer played at a very good level - the exception was his forehand errors in the 1st set tie-break, backhand errors in the penultimate game of the 3rd and his inability to get Roddick's serve in play throughout.

The forehand errors were down to nerves and impatience. He choked. The backhand errors, in my opinion, were tactical - why he insists on coming over the backhand is beyond me. Roddick didn't hit a single backhand winner off of his slice backhand, yet he insists on coming over that stroke.

Finally, Andy served well (only a little better than the USO last year) the difference was Fed's inability to get balls he got his racquet on back in play. In the past, he's chipped his way into a beat on the serve and then broken Andy's will/confidence as the match progressed. Last night he started out trying to come over the return, when he should have put the pressure on Andy to make a play.

My advice to Fed is: (1) slice the backhand until someone proves they can hit winners off of it (2) get to net as soon as possible, and take the pressure off your groundstrokes - mostly the forehand, but also the backhand and (3) take something off the first-serve and set up an approach to net - forget about trying to ace your way out of trouble.

Craig Hickman said...

Karen, I've seen Federer broken at love. I've seen Federer lose 4 games in a row. In fact, it happened in the 2004 Wimbledon final. Against Andy Roddick.

There is no Kool Aid here, Karen, and I would appreciate it if you left those kinds of personal remarks aside. I'm not feeling it today. Not at all.

Andy Roddick beat Roger Federer. Perioid. No excuses for Roger Federer. All credit to Andy Roddick.

Sorry that Raja lost. When our faves lose, it never feels good.

But Raja has played worse than he played last night and still won the match.

If anything is happening to Raja that makes people ask what the hell is going on, I offer two things:

1) He's mentally challenged. Trying to defend his ranking isn't easy. Trying to break Sampras' record isn't easy. The closer he gets, the harder it becomes.

2) His opponents are beginning to toughen mentally against him which makes it more challenging for Raja to dominate within matches.

If you believe Raja's own words, he said himself that this was a match he was maybe "supposed" to win, but it didn't go his way, just like there have been matches in the past that maybe Andy was supposed to win but Raja won instead.

Only a few of their encounters have been blowouts. The rest have been competitive and anyone with an objective eye knows that Andy has been right there with Raja but has almost always succumbed to his own mental frailty in the face of such a H2H deficit.

Roger played well. He lost. It happens.

Get over it.

edma1022 said...

I agree. He lost. Andy won. I saw the match. Although I swear Fed is sweating too much that match than in matches before, he wasn't sweating as much as Andy did. Andy really really wanted this and he got it.

Fed needs to feel the hunger to win again. And also be mindful of the fast pace of 3-set matches. I believe he's often incredulous it went too fast.

MMT said...

I agree w/ Craig - Roger played well and lost...with the exception of the tie-break and the penultimate game. Hindsight is 20/20, and maybe I'm being picky with my advice on his backhand and service returns, but all credit to Andy on this one.

I will say this - basically in the clutch Roger blew it twice yesterday. Which makes me wonder - is it time for him to consider playing a more "full" schedule?

It looks like he has 4 tournaments between now and the French including Estoril, which I think is a good addition. But after Wimbledon his first action is in Canada like 3 weeks after the final. Not so good.

No substitute for match play to help deal with nerves.

rabbit said...

Roger has been blowing it during clutch moments since last year. During the Roland Garros final, he didn't capitalize on tons of break points. In general, he has been having a very low break point conversion rate. Whenever there has been a slight doubt about the outcome, he has come out on the losing side since last year during this time. To Nalbandian, to Canas the second time, to Djokovic in Canada. The few times he has held up in clutch moments during this period has been the US Open final and the Aussie Open match against Tipsarevic.

I agree this is a sign of low confidence and quite worrying for Federer fans. Good to see that some of the touch is still there but the touch is useless without the confidence to use it in crucial times.

By the way, a nice blog from Rafa from yesterday:

My father, uncle and all their friends went to see the match between Roddick and Federer. Talking about that, I followed the match on the internet before going for dinner. It is quite a surprise, although Andy is playing very good lately. He played really good in Dubai and it seems he is playing here at that same level.

I hope the media don't start "killing" Roger for this. He doesn't deserve it and he is really a great guy. I am sure he will win soon again.

tangerine said...

I'm over the moon. The Roddick fans I know are too happy to properly celebrate.

This Decker girl Andy got engaged sure does agree with him. He's never played better since hooking up with her. Yay Brooklyn! And Yay Jimmy Connors and Terrell Owens for their mentoring of Andy.

And for those who want to dismiss Andy's win becaue "Federer wasn't Federer", I'm sorry but I've seen Roger play much worse than what he did last night and he still beat Andy plenty times before.

Andy was due. Overdue.

Craig, I am sorry about your pet horsey but I hope Serena's and Andy's superb wins over their nemesis have lessened the sadness for you, if only a bit. *hugs*

I hope the media don't start "killing" Roger for this. He doesn't deserve it and he is really a great guy. I am sure he will win soon again.

Rafa's a sweetheart but you know what? Andy's been getting "killed" by the media and then some for the better part of five years and nobody has come to his defense. Grr.

Karen said...

Craig, I never get personal, but I hate the fact that everyone is putting Fed through the ringer because of these losses. It happens. As a fan of the guy, it breaks my heart that all of his accomplishments are being capitalised in one word - he is dead - that is no way to treat someone who has brought a lot of people back to tennis. Even the fact that he is now losing or is going through what is being perceived as a slump does in no way account for the way he is being villified and doubted. The man has been sick. Clearly, he has a lot on his mind right now. he is suffering from lack of match play and lack of confidence. Say what you will, he is still the guy to beat. And yes you are right, Andy did beat him last night, and did so convincingly, but that in no way detracts from what Fed has accomplished and I would really love if a little bit of objectivity would be given in relation to the present situation. For the record, I was one of those who has been saying that Andy has been playing really well, from I saw him in San Jose I knew he was doing something different. Clearly, Fed needs a coach. No doubt about it.

Helen W said...

rabbit I read his blog too this morning, and was touched by the same thing. In fact I can't think of another instance when a player's parent watched a game where his child was not playing -- especially when he had to travel from Europe!

The civility between Roger & Rafa has added immeasurably to my enjoyment of tennis over the last few years.

Craig Hickman said...

Craig, I never get personal, but I hate the fact that everyone is putting Fed through the ringer because of these losses. It happens. As a fan of the guy, it breaks my heart that all of his accomplishments are being capitalised in one word - he is dead - that is no way to treat someone who has brought a lot of people back to tennis.


You told me I was drinking Kool Aid. I don't appreciate the connotation of it. Never have; never will. Because what it means is that I'm not thinking independently or clearly. And I take it personally today because I'm not in the mood to take it any other way.

I'm not saying your guy is dead. He lost a tennis match. It's really not that deep.

If people are saying your guy is dead in other places, then that's what they're saying in other places.

No one is saying that here.

oddman said...

Say it again, Craig, to borrow your own phrase!

Karen said...

Hi Craig, I recall that this is how we used to battle amongst ourselves. I guess I am just upset not by the loss, but by the fact that people are just writing this guy off because of the fact that he is going through a tough time right now. Anywho, let me say my condolences to you on the loss of your horse. It may sound trite but I know what it is to lose a beloved friend, animal or human. I am currently nursing a dog who is suffering from heart worms and the vet does not give him long to live. He is pure skin and bones but he is just loveable and adorable and it is heart wrenching waiting on him to die. Tennis I guess brings out the best and worst in people. Now that almost 24 hours have passed and I have had a chance to calm down, I realise that this is but a tennis match being played by professionals who do this for a living. Wins and losses are a part of the everyday grind of tennis. I guess I can live with that, friendsships however, like the ones that I have made here are few and far between. Mea Culpa Mon Amie

Helen W said...

This is off topic, but from, even the players are frustrated with the TV coverage.

Karen, so sorry to hear about your dog. I have recently gone through a similar experience with a cat, and I know how very painful it is. Take care.

oddman said...

karen, my condolences as well. I'm very familiar with losing beloved animal friends, and how much it hurts, esp when sometimes ppl don't get why 'you're so upset... it's only a dog/cat/horse, it's not a person.... GRRR does that ever make me angry when I hear that.
And I have NOT written Fed off of anything yet. Not once have I ever said 'he's done' - the Swiss will still be a force in tennis.
I'm just enjoying Andy's long overdue victory. And also celebrating Rafa's win today as well. What a great day - and I hope you see me as friend too, despite your deplorable lack of taste in male tennis players, LOLOL!

rabbit said...

Karen, my best wishes too!

Two related points.

I think it needs to be said, and Craig kind of alluded to it, that Roger himself keeps a good perspective on things. He congratulated Andy, offered no excuse for himself, and then behaved as if nothing too tremendous had happened. As Federer fans, we live and die by his matches but it is nice that Roger can retain some perspective and realize that a match is only a match. I remember Roger in his early days used to get much more gloomy after losses. Perhaps it is this realization of how to keep mental distance from losses that has made him so successful.

Also, we all too often forget that even in the glory days of 2004-2006, Roger faced many tough matches. For example, his 2006 Madrid match against Soderling went 7-6, 7-6, extremely tight. By that standard, Roger started rolling in the second set of the match against Soderling in Miami this week. After all, just in December, Roger managed to win the TMC by extinguishing all his opponents. So there are signs to be sure that Roger will turn this slump around. Judging by some of his shots against Roddick, he's certainly not dead.

Karen said...

Hwy Oddman and Rabbit, thanks for the condolences. I unfortunately, will have to put down the dog today as he can no longer walk and seems to be in pain. I will see you guys sometime soon.