The 2012 US Open will be Andy Roddick's last tournament, and although we've talked about Roddick here before, his retirement deserves a post of its own.
Through no fault of his own, Roddick made professional tennis his vocation at possibly the worst time in the history of the game, namely Roger Federer's prime. You know how good Federer is, but you might not know that Federer played Roddick twenty-six times since 2001. Roddick only won four of those matches, going oh-for-eight in majors. Four of those majors were finals -- three at Wimbledon and one at Flushing Meadows. Three were semi-final matches -- two Australians and one Wimbledon. The eighth was a quarterfinal match at the US Open. The point of all this? Roddick probably would have won two or three more majors if Federer decided to stay in Switzerland and make milk chocolate or hide illegally obtained money in neutrally located banks.
Roddick "only" won one major title, the 2003 US Open, right before Federer went on a decade-long reign of domination. As a result, we (or at least I) tend to think of Roddick as a bit over-rated. No one thinks he is as good as Sampras and Agassi, rightfully so, but I oddly think much more highly of Pat Rafter. I say oddly because ... go compare Rafter and Roddick, I'll wait.
Roddick won three times as many tournaments and twice as much money. He was ousted in the semi-final round in five majors compared to Rafter's three. Roddick was knocked out in the quarters in nine times to Rafter's zero. Roddick is 128-44 in major play while Rafter went 76-33. Both were ranked #1 at some point. The big differnce in Rafter's favor: he was 2-2 in major finals while Roddick went 1-4. But Rafter's two wins came against Greg Rusedski and Mark Phillipoussis, not exactly players of Federer's caliber. So why is my view so skewed?
(Note that I refuse to pander to the lowest common denominator, i.e., Teedge, and I will not engage in a head-to-head comparison of their wives. You know who Roddick married. Do a Google image search and you'll find that Rafter did pretty well too.)
Probably because I feel like Roddick could have done more. His game is perfect for fast surfaces. Watch him play and adjectives like violent, belligerent, compact, brutal will bubble up in your mind.
His forehand is an uppercut that would make Mike Tyson proud. Coaches teach you to twist at the waist and bring the racquet back with both hands. You're supposed to keep your shoulders level throughout and use your legs to adjust to the height of the ball.
Here's how Federer hits a forehand:
Textbook. Nadal is similar:
Roddick doesn't do that. Instead, he drops his right shoulder so that it's aligned somewhere around his left nipple, then whips everything north of his nutsack through the ball, winding up with both shoulders about parallel. Here's Roddick taking practice forehands.
Here's one in-game.
That's some pugilistic shit, right? Compare:
(We need more Tyson videos around here. I imagine Mark sitting at his computer, moving his head in vertical approval.)
Roddick's serve is a mechanistic marvel. There is no extraneous motion. His swing is so remarkably compact, in fact, that it's irreconcilable with the amount of power he generates. When seen in real-time speed it looks like he doesn't even pull the racquet back -- as he tosses he cocks the racquet straight up and then, instantly, put it through the ball. But viewed in slow-mo the truth becomes apparent. He really does bring the racquet back, if only for an imperceptible period of time, before snapping through. I have no idea how he does this so fast. The slow-mo starts around 1:16:
This allowed him to hit the rudest serve ever.
The best comparison I can make is Billy Wagner's throwing motion. No idea how he gets so much ehat from so little motion.
So Roddick has a ton of physical gifts and, as a result, I failed to cut him the proper slack he deserved in light of his competition. And he wore visors. I have a perhaps irrational disdain for men who wear visors. He can also be a bit of a dick, which doesn't help:
Roddick's jackass sense of humor provides a little redemption. Here he mocks Nadal:
This sense of humor carried him through a decade of woodsheddings by Federer. Watch until the end and you'll see what I mean:
But all of this was false bravado. Nothing sums up who Roddick really is better than this:
After losing to Federer for the fourth consecutive time in a major, with the scoreboard showing 14-16 in the 5th set to add extra salt to the wound, tears in his eyes because he knew he was so close and because he probably knew he would lose and because he definitely heard his window on winning another major slam shut, he interrupted Federer's gentlemanly "good game" speech to call bullshit on the guy who tormented him professionally for years, to tool on his graciousness and smooth propriety, to let everyone know that he respected and despised Federer at the same time, and to remind us that he was simply born at the wrong time to be a tennis player. It wasn't until this crack in Roddick's smug facade that we saw who he really is and what he really wanted to be but simply could not. I wish he showed this sooner.
So I hope you watched as much of Roddick as you could this fortnight, because you won't find anyone on the pro tour who combines his ferocity and charisma, possibly ever again.