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Roddick's slide extends to Olympics
It’s getting hard to watch Andy Roddick play tennis. You can’t figure out what his spot is anymore. What his role is. Is he the great American tennis star? No. Well, sort of, maybe.
He isn’t going to win another major or get anywhere near the mountaintop again, but he’s still the only men’s player to be a star in U.S. pop culture, married to Brooklyn Decker, swimsuit model.
Can he win a big match? Maybe one. He’s not coming, he’s not going. He hasn’t stayed too long, but it’s hard to know what he’s staying for. Maybe he just likes it.
But he’s sort of just suspended there, killing time. And it could go on, uncomfortably, for a while.
“I feel like it’s extremes with me right now,’’ he said after getting crushed Tuesday by Novak Djokovic in the Olympics at Wimbledon. It was 6-2, 6-1 in 54 minutes. “If I win one, it’s like Career Appreciation Day. Then if I lose one, it’s like we should take him out in the field and shoot him in the head.’’
Roddick is going to be a great TV analyst. That’s where he can mean the most to U.S. tennis now, if he brings his sharpness and his brutal honesty with him. You might not know it, but privately he is thoughtful about all sorts of issues. His sarcasm and meltdowns can become selling points for TV, too.
After the match Tuesday, somebody asked him whether this might be his last time “on that stage,’’ presumably talking about Wimbledon. It’s a question about retirement that comes up in subtleties now, a soft-pedaling politeness that is insulting to Roddick.
How would you like it if people kept dropping hints all the time about whether you are done?
He’s right: If he wins, you appreciate his career, as if the old guy, who will turn 30 in a few weeks, can still put it together every once in a while. If he loses, you’re mad that he hasn’t done more. I wonder which one is more comfortable for him.
“I don’t know,’’ he said, after being asked the retirement question again. “I’m not going to get into ... it’s not close to my mind right now. That’s not something that I’m going to talk about. I’m looking forward to next week.
“The way my mind works, I automatically think about what do I have next. I’ve been playing 'next' for 12 years.’’
Djokovic was great Tuesday. Everything he did worked. He served better than he ever does. And when Roddick had to hit a second serve, Djokovic crushed it down his throat.
So Roddick figured he’d better get that first serve in, and let up on it a little. Then, Djokovic crushed that back, too. It was hopeless, but the thing about tennis is, when one guy is doing everything right, it’s partly because the other guy isn’t stopping him.
“Tried to serve and volley a couple of times,’’ Roddick said. “Some people say, 'Go forward.' He’s drilling every ball, so what do you approach (the net) on?’’
Roddick’s game has little subtlety, little variance. After trying to add nuances a few years ago when he thought his career was done, he’s back to living on his serve again. He’s still trying to do some of the things he added, but his backhand isn’t great and his forehand has lost its sting.
Meanwhile, the sport has progressed, and plenty of others can serve as well as he does now.
“He just beat the crap out of me,’’ Roddick said.
Here’s to hoping his TV analysis will be that blunt, will lack subtlety, like his game. It could be must-see TV. He has already started doing a radio show. He’s not old enough to celebrate his nostalgia, but instead you’re reminded of what he didn’t do.
It is a little frustrating to see Roddick down at No. 21 in the rankings while Roger Federer is back to No. 1, coming off another Wimbledon title. Nine years ago, Roddick was No. 1 and a U.S. Open champ, and Federer No. 2. Then they switched spots.
And over the years, Roddick got deep into majors, to the final of Wimbledon a few times, and lost to Federer. Could Federer-Roddick have been what Federer-Rafael Nadal is?
No. That was never going to happen. More so, Roddick represented the best of an era of players who took art out of the game and tried to just bash the ball. Then, Federer came in as an artist. It was like another stage of tennis evolution, and Roddick was left behind.
He meant a lot to U.S. tennis over the years because he was the only player with star qualities, and he was also the only one who could stay in the top 10 for so many years.
But it also was annoying that it took him so long to stop being a rockhead, and try to adjust his game.
So now I’m doing it, too, writing a Roddick career obituary. Well, 54 minutes was pretty shocking Tuesday. Roddick moves on, thinking of next, but really just floating in space.
He has to know. When he left the court Tuesday, he walked straight to the media interview room. Usually, it takes players an hour or so, irritating reporters who are nervous about deadlines.
Roddick wanted to get it over with, so an official announced that he would talk now. I saw a friend and, happy to have this press conference so soon, said, “That was quick.’’
Unfortunately, Roddick was standing right there, too. Without taking a breath, he pretended as if I had been talking about his match.
“Thanks a lot,’’ he said, sarcastically.
He is TV ready.
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