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“Nobody Said Winning Was Easy,” Andy Roddick Admits after Wimbledon Loss

Posted on June 29, 2010 by JA Allen

Andy Roddick playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Andy Roddick’s result at Wimbledon Monday mirrors the state of men’s tennis in the United States––generally showy but lacking substance.  It is not enough to have a huge serve and powerful ground strokes, you must also pay the ultimate price which means putting in the compulsory hours to ensure you are mentally and physically fit to win a major championship.

The No. 1 American, Roddick, with his rocket serves and his majestic, powerful ground strokes failed to live up to his expectations, let alone his potential.  Why? Because the American skipped the most important ingredient in success on the tennis court this Spring––commitment and preparation.

I suppose, given the fact that he is married to a gorgeous woman, model Brooklyn Decker, it is understandable––even inevitable that Roddick would skip playing on slippery clay in Europe to accompany her to Hawaii for a shoot on the film “Just Go For It.”  All this, of course, in honor of celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

Andy Roddick's wife Brooklyn Decker watches the scoreboard.

You don’t win major championships with good intentions even if your wife did make the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.  It is sad because while marriage may last a lifetime, Wimbledon Championships are hard to come by and the window of opportunity to win there is narrow.  Roddick should know that better than most, having competed in three finals, losing each time to Roger Federer––whose window, in fact,  may now also be closing.

Roddick played his finest match on grass during the 2009 Wimbledon finals against the renowned Swiss, losing in the match in the fifth set at 7-9.  The American relinquished his serve only once in the match––in his final game.

In preparation for that superlative performance, Roddick had hired a new coach, Larry Stefanki, at the start of 2008, lost weight and recommitted himself to the hard work necessary to win.

His exit from Centre Court in 2009, however, fully restored the American’s belief that he had the game necessary to win this title, finally.  Roddick re-dedicated himself to winning the Wimbledon Championship in 2010.  A win would allow the American to capture the crown that had eluded him during his entire career.

Roddick began 2010 on fire, winning his first title in Brisbane.  In order to maintain his edge and his commitment to win major titles, especially Wimbledon, the American pulled out of Davis Cup competition where he had been the American standard-bearer for Davis Cup Coach Patrick McEnroe.

As the seventh seed, Roddick entered the Australian Open with a slight shoulder injury.  The American lost in the quarterfinals to Marin Cilic after coming back from two sets down.  At the 2010 SAP Open Roddick made it to the finals where he lost to Fernando Verdasco.

Andy Roddick enjoyed success during American Hard Courts in 2010.

But during the American hard court swing, Roddick really blossomed.  He lost in the finals at Indian Wells to Ivan Ljubicic but he won in Miami, defeating Tomas Berdych in the final.  Roddick had the best record in men’s tennis heading onto the clay.

Then he literally stopped playing, taking time off to rest and relax––like the Hare in his race with the Tortoise.  You know how that turned out, don’t you?

While no one could expect Roddick to do well on clay––he has not done so in the past because his game doesn’t translate well on the slow red clay in Paris, or elsewhere.  Still it would have provided top-flight competition and given the American the requisite mindset needed in preparing to play matches.

Once Roddick returned to play on clay in Madrid, he became ill and had to withdraw.  That meant his only tour matches came at the French Open in Paris where he went out in the third round.  He had not played competitive tennis since the first of April.  To call that a layoff is to call Mount Kilimanjaro a hill.

At Queens Club, the lead-up tournament to Wimbledon, Roddick lost unexpectedly to Israeli Dudi Sela in the third round.  This is hardly the foundation of match play needed to win a major championship.

Was it surprising that Roddick lost to Yeh-hsun Lu in the fourth round?  Yes and no.  Lu had played a lot of tennis and he was match strong, meaning he had confidence in his own game.  Lu had played Roddick three times, twice in 2010.  Even though he had lost all three matches, Lu played Roddick tough on the hard courts at Indian Wells and and at Memphis.

Yeh-Hsun Lu defeated Andy Roddick in the 4th round at Wimbledon.

In the end, Lu was ready for the challenge and Roddick was not.  Lu brought his very best stuff to the court with him and Roddick did not.  Why is that, do you suppose?  Because Lu had been playing tennis and Roddick had not.  When Roddick reached down to get his game, it broke apart and only pieces of it surfaced––like his serve.

Roddick could serve and he did that––very well as a matter of fact.  But as he himself pointed out in his press conference, he did not return well and his break point percentage was abysmal at one of eight or 13 percent while Lu had two break point opportunities and he converted the one he needed to win the match in the fifth and final set.  Does that scenario sound familiar?

Granted, Lu is no Federer and no one understands that better than Andy Roddick who called his own play “horrendous” during his televised press conference.

Lu from Chinese Taipei, formerly Taiwan, met Roddick at the perfect moment in time when the grass courts were at their hardest and fastest.  Lu’s speed around the court, allowed him to chase down almost everything Roddick threw at him.  That is exactly what he did, running and hitting the ball hard, keeping Roddick on his heels and Lu in contention.

Lu’s father, who supported his son’s dream to play tennis, sold chickens.  To help his father, Lu used to chase the birds, catching them and packing them for transport.  The Taiwan native credited his foot speed to his ability to capture chickens on a dead run.  The 82nd ranked Lu dedicated his win to his father who passed away in 2000.

Andy Roddick lost to Roger Federer during the 2009 Wimbledon finals in a thrilling 5 set match.

His win over Roddick allowed Lu to became the first Asian male to make it to a major quarterfinal since 1995.  On Wednesday he will face the No. 3 seed Serb Novak Djokovic.

As Roddick went down to defeat on Court No. 2, so did America’s hope for a Wimbledon win on the men’s side.  Sam Querry had also lost on that day to Andy Murray.  John Isner, of course, after his epic match with Nicolas Mahut, had already departed for the United States, along with the rest of America’s 14 male entries into the main draw.

The Americans need to take a lesson from the top players Federer and Nadal who understand that match play is critical to success along with thoughtful preparation and mind-numbing conditioning.

If you are going to win majors, you must be fully committed and allow nothing to distract you from it––not fame and notoriety, not wine, women or song, not children or family.  Being a champion can be lonely.  Maybe that is why so few make it to the top or stay there very long.

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