Posted Aug 28, 2009 3:37PM By Greg Couch (RSS feed)
Let's just start with this: Andy Roddick is going to win the U.S.
There, I said it. And I had to say it fast, as just three months ago,
the idea of Roddick winning anything important would have been the
last thing in my mind.
Consider me a convert.
Roddick will win. Not Roger Federer, not Rafael Nadal. And it will be
an amazing day for tennis, as the big thing keeping this game from
becoming an all-out boom-sport is an actual American star winning
majors on the men's side.
The tournament starts Monday, and the women's champ? Well, come on,
that's obvious: Serena Williams. It's a major, so she'll be trying.
When she cares, she fights. When she fights, she wins. Simple.
But Roddick is the big curiosity here, changing from celebrity tennis
player to tennis-playing star. He's two weeks from getting there. Did
you see him on Letterman the other night, serving on a makeshift court
built on a street?
Fans were packed watching that. He hit Letterman with a 103 mph serve.
The amazing thing is that Roddick doesn't understand these converts,
doesn't know why he can't walk into a coffee shop now without people
wanting to talk tennis. He doesn't know where these converts came
from, why they didn't like him before and why they do now.
It has been interesting watching him try to figure it out since July,
when he lost the classic Wimbledon final, 16-14 in the fifth set, to
After so many victories through the years led to dislike from fans,
this time he lost. And then, for the first time, he came home the
"I still don't know if I have a complete grasp of kind of what changed
it ...'' he said. "During my career, I've kind of been portrayed as
every single type of person: good, bad, ugly, you know, rude, nice.
This is kind of the first time it's been presented in a light that's
kind of the hard-working, kind of everyday-Joe-type tennis player
trying to make good.
"And all the while, the meat and potatoes of who I am has probably
stayed the same. I think people maybe realized it's not easy and it
does take work.''
I can help here, Andy. Because before Wimbledon, I also saw you as
good, bad, ugly, rude. You forgot sarcastic and selfish. And
disrespectful. Now, you're hard-working, everyday-Joe.
It's not that people finally realized how much work goes into it. The
frustration all these years with Roddick has been that everyone else
already knew, but that he took that amazing serve and talent, and with
the hardest head, just let the game pass him by.
Follow that serve into the net every once in a while to change things
up for your opponents, so you don't just look like a pitcher throwing
the exact same 100 mph fastball int o the exact same spot every time.
THINK! Tennis is a strategy as much as a physical thing. Don't fall
apart just because you've fallen behind.
Roddick has heard these things for years, from one coach after
It took this long to finally hit him that his career had peaked, and
was only going to go one direction from here.
What Wimbledon showed, what made for the converts, was that Roddick
finally understood. He had started listening to the latest coach,
In defeat at Wimbledon, he was a guy not afraid in crunch time, a guy
who had lost weight, learned a backhand, come to the net occasionally.
He was a guy fighting to the death on the other guy's, the king's,
favorite court, the sport's most-hallowed ground.
Roddick is going to win this Open. The draw opened up perfectly for
him. Nadal, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro will have to fight
it out on the other side of the draw.
Roddick will have to beat Novak Djokovic in the quarters. But he just
beat Djokovic a few weeks ago. And then he's going to have Federer,
who is perfect again, and not easy to pick against, in the semis. So
I'm going on gut feeling here, convert feeling, that that will be the
moment that puts Roddick over, in New York with that massive stadium
going crazy for him.
In the final? Nadal's knees aren't ready. Murray, as he showed against
Roddick at Wimbledon, and then against Federer in Cincinnati, can be
had. And del Potro, who has beaten Roddick twice lately in tight
matches doesn't have the physical strength yet to play two weeks of
"(Roddick) was never really gone," Federer said Thursday on ESPN News
during the announcement of the Open draw. "Unfortunately, he had an
image where people thought he was always dangerous and could make
runs, but not win tournaments.
"Now, all of a sudden, they're talking about maybe winning the
tournament again instead of losing the quarters or semis. I see him
going deep here in the Open."
Well, that winning thing is still an issue, honestly. He did lose in
the end to Federer. And despite playing well, he has had trouble
closing out tournaments since then.
But Roddick, who has won just one major in his career, is his own
biggest convert. This Open is set up perfectly to be his moment.
Roddick talks about coming back from Wimbledon and being approached by
his mailman, who told him he would have won had he changed his shirt a
few times to get rid of the sweat. At an event in Canada, they were
chanting his name.
"I would be lying if I sat here and said I totally understood it ...''
he said. "I'm very thankful for the support that I have right now,
because it's been fleeting throughout my career. I hope it stays.''
That's not up to the fans, Andy. It's up to you.