Roddick Still Goes Out On Top

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – After his loss to Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Roddick was asked to say a few words.

For the first time in a long time, his mouth was at a loss.

“I mean, I don’t know that I had a plan,” Roddick said.  “You know, I was just going to try to win.  It was perfect.  This whole week has been perfect, you know.

“Rain‑delayed match, come back the next day.  It’s like typical US Open.  Played with me in the end, so I guess it was right.”

It wasn’t the storybook ending for Roddick, but it was his ending, as the No. 7 seed took him out of the Open with a 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 win today in a match that was restarted after postponed last night.

But it didn’t matter for Roddick. He didn’t think he would have lasted to the final with some younger and better players in front of him. Rather, he wanted to go out on his terms. And today, he did.

Even in his final press conference.

“I was walking out of the locker room, and I said, Man, I think I have more expectation of this press conference than I did the match today,” he said.

“So, you know, like you said, I think it’s at the point now where I look back on rough moments fondly, you know, in these rooms.  I hope you all do, too.  There has certainly been some good ones; there have been some fun I ones.

“There has been some horrible ones both ways, but it wasn’t boring.”

Maybe that’s Roddick’s legacy. He wasn’t boring. Much like John McEnroe and Andre Agassi before him, he knows tennis is entertainment and besides being an athlete, he is there to entertain the crowd. He is always witty and funny and of course never a snoozer.

His matches with Federer were epic at times, even though he could never break through, and he played to the crowd in exhibitions, such as last March when he imitated Rafa Nadal on his serve much to the laughter of those in attendance.

He was no clown prince, though. Tennis was a serious business to him and he never gave up, which is why the Arthur Ashe crowd was chanting, “Let’s Go Andy!” throughout the match.

“I know the thing that is certain is I didn’t take any of it for granted,” he said.  “ I think I went about things the right way.  The umpires might disagree with me.  (Laughter.)

“I was consistent, and I don’t feel like I left a lot on the table on a daily basis.  When I look back, that’s probably what I’m proud of.”

What’s next for him, well that’s anyone’s guess, but Roddick will be humbled when the accolades come down, especially if he gets the call from Newport.

“That’s not for me to say,” he said.  “That’s not my choice.  Obviously it’s the ultimate honor of any tennis player, and that’s something I’d be extremely humbled by. But I’m certainly not going to be presumptuous about anything.  If it happens, I’ll be thrilled and amazed.  If it doesn’t, I’ll probably still be thrilled and amazed with what I was able to see.”

Because deep down inside, Roddick is still that 12 year-old kid who dreamed about playing Ivan Lendl or Stefan Edberg and now that they are his contemporaries, he is definitely satisfied.

“Yeah, it’s funny, because if you tell a 12‑ or 13‑year‑old kid that he’s going to win 30‑some odd titles and become one of 20 for this and 20 for that and be No. 1 and have a slam, you’d take that in a heartbeat,” he said.  “Going back, I would have taken that in a heartbeat.

“There were a lot of tough moments but unbelievable moments.  I mean, who gets to play in Wimbledon finals and who gets to play in an Open and who gets to be part of a winning team?  Most people don’t get to experience that.”

Roddick did and today he closed that chapter in his life on his terms.

 

 

 

 

Still Fishing For Respect

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Poor Mardy Fish.

Even though he is playing the best tennis of his life and comes in to the US Open as the highest ranked American, some just don’t take him as a serious threat in this tournament.

Just take this question for example after the No. 8 seed cruised today against Malek Jazuri, 6-2 6-2 6-4. Fish answered the question about being thankful about his draw.

To that one reporter responded: But you have to put yourself in that mindset, too.  Sounds like you’re a new player in several respects.  You have to come in thinking, I’m going to beat whoever’s out there.

Fish then gave this answer: “Look, we don’t make the draw.  You can’t know who you’re going to come up with.  I got lucky in the first two rounds.  No doubt about it.

“Isner played Baghdatis in the first round.  That guy’s really good.  So his draw was tougher than mine, for sure.  There’s no doubt about it.  That’s the luck of the draw in that aspect.

“But, you know, you position yourself to get to a top 8 seed and you don’t have to play one of those guys until the quarters.  That’s where the hard work pays off, I guess.”

Fish just needs to keep winning and the naysayers will eventually subside. Just last year, the 30 year-old was an annual second round loss at all grand slam events. But then he went to the fourth round of the Open and the new Mardy Fish was introduced to the world.

The hard work to move from journeyman to contender wasn’t easy and frankly a long time coming.

Fish’s knock was that he didn’t take care of himself and wasn’t in the type of shape to be a world class player. But then he did a workout regimen that excelled him to the higher echelons of the tennis world.

And it’s the type of advice he wants to give younger players like Jack Sock if he comes to him for advice.

“Take care of my body better,” he said.  “I took that for granted, I think.  Just health.  It’s hard. I mean, look, you know, he’s a very talented player, a good player now.  You know, you just hope they realize that they’re still a long ways away from where he wants to be.  I’m sure of that.

“He’s a confident kid, for sure.  You have to be.  I certainly was at that age.  But, you know, you got to channel that the right way, as well. You know, you got to have some fire, like he does, for sure, but you got to channel it the right way, too.

“I think the most important thing is to keep working hard and to keep ‑ it sounds stupid ‑ but to try to stay on the court as much as you can because you can’t take health for granted, because I certainly did.”

And now he moves on the early rounds of the Open with ease. Fish has a good chance to go to the Quarterfinals but then he will have to face the Dark Knight himself, Roger Federer.

“Obviously Novak has done what he’s done,” he said.  “He’s head and shoulders the guy you really don’t want in your draw right now. I mean, those guys, they present so many problems, so many different problems, all four of them.  And so, yes, you have to get through one of them.  Maybe you don’t.  It’s very lucky if you get to the semis. Obviously to win a tournament, you have to play two of those guys absolutely.  You’re not going to win a tournament without playing two of those guys.”

But that will have to wait, as Fish will take on 34 ranked South African Kevin Anderson, who beat 29th seed Michael Llondra in straight sets today.

 

Life Comes To Ferrero At The Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With all the focus on the young players at this year’s US Open, it is almost easy to overlook Juan Carlos Ferrero, who went back to the future and partied like it was 2003 today in Queens.

Ferrero didn’t drive a DeLorean, nor did he take some sort of youth pills in his five set classic over the 7th seed Gael Monfils, winning, 7-6(5) 5-7 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4. Rather he did it the old fashioned way – he became healthy.

“I still having little bit problems with my hip,” he said.  “I have some pain.  But I played two matches, five sets.  I’ve been testing too much right now.  But I think I’ll be okay to play in good conditions next round.”

After winning his first round match against the 45th ranked Pablo Andujar, Ferrero fought through against Monfils, the highly ranked Frenchman, who many had pegged to go to at least the quarterfinals.

The 2003 US Open runner-up had different plans.

“I mean, this match means a lot for me because, like I said, it was a long time that I didn’t enjoy inside the court,” said Ferrero, who is now ranked 105th in the world. “Today was very physically match all the time, but I think I played the whole match a very good level.

“Maybe the serve wasn’t work very well in the whole match.  But from the baseline I was trying to be very aggressive all the time and move him because, you know, his moves are very good.  So it’s always tough to play against such a good player.”

Ferrero fought through trainer’s visits early in the match for his foot and then later on to treat blisters on his hands, but nothing that will hinder him in the later rounds. Instead, he thought it was the humidity at Flushing Meadows Park which caused the problems.

“Yeah, it was only, you know, maybe because it was a long time that I didn’t play such a long match,” he thought. “Also because of the humid.  For skin, it’s tough to get normal all the time.  Is, you know, problems of the matches.  I think I’ll be okay.”

Today Ferrero reminded the packed Luis Armstrong Stadium of the player who beat Andre Agassi back in 2003 and then lost to that up and comer Andy Roddick.

“Of course the year that I get No. 1 here in semifinals against, you know, I beat Agassi,” he recalled. “I always like to watch him on the TV when I was young.  So was big opportunity for me that year. Was a pity to not win the tournament.  But, you know, was great.”

Yet, it was a career that was derailed by injuries recently and had surgery on his left wrist and right knee last October. After losing in the first round in Madrid, Ferrero was hinting at retirement at the tender age of 31, but held on for this Open run.

And today, the man nicknamed the Mosquito because of his fancy footwork around the baseline fought back the younger Monfils delivering back all the Frenchman could give him.

He only had two aces to Monfils 21 while keeping his unforced errors down to 52 compared to his opponent’s 81.

Ferrero will try to keep it going in the third round against 31st ranked Marcel Granollers.

Isner Just Getting Back After Wimbledon and Injury

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The last time we saw John Isner at a major, it took him three days to get the win.

Needless to say, this time it was a little easier.

“Yeah, just a little bit,” laughed Isner after he disposed of Federico Gil, 6-4 6-3 6-4.  “I don’t know the exact time of my match tonight, but obviously it was a lot less time on the court.

“So for my second‑round match I should be a little bit fresher than I was at Wimbledon.”

Actually John, you were on the court for 1hour, 57 minutes, certainly much less than the 11+ you played in England.

Yet, even if this match was relatively uneventful, his weeks leading up to the US Open were filled with uncertainty. You see, Isner injured his ankle in Cincinnati, which was originally diagnosed as torn ligaments, but now seems to be just a bad sprain. Up to a week ago, he was not cleared by the his doctors, but now he has a clean bill of health.

“In my mind,” he said, “I didn’t think I was going to play, just because I didn’t think my ankle was ready.  But I got cleared to go.  Once I got that news it was all systems go, doing everything I possibly can to get ready for, you know, today’s match.”

Right now, Isner says the ankle is about 90 percent, but his legs are not in game shape after missing the last few weeks due to the injury. He felt it on the court today and feels he has to have a few matches before he gets back into full tournament shape.

“The issue when you hurt your ankle, everything else shuts down,” he said.  So that’s just what happens.  So I’ve just got to rebuild the strength in my legs.  That was the issue tonight. Because when you have that hurt ankle you’re not able to put any weight on it for a long time.  Everything on the right side of my body was shut down.  I have to get to the point where my left and right side are moving the same.”

The injury may have been a blessing in disguise for the 18th seed as he was able to stay away from the limelight the last few weeks. He needed to take time off after Wimbledon to unwind and even turned his phone off for a few days.

“I went into the Atlanta tournament and felt pretty good out there,” he said.  “But then when I went to play D.C. it all kind of hit me.  Either it was that match, kind of everything I did after the match, you know, a lot of interviews and whatnot, it kind of all just hit me.  I kind of ran out of gas in D.C.

“From there, I didn’t play Toronto.  I knew I needed to take some time off like completely.  That’s what I did.  I went home to North Carolina, turned my phone off for four days, got spoiled by my mom.  Then I went into Cincinnati feeling great.  Been hitting the ball great, just playing my best tennis.  Unfortunately I hurt my ankle.”

But now he’s back and enjoying his new found fame from the Eternal Match. Ironically, though, the first person he saw when he walked into the player’s lounge at Arthur Ashe was his opponent Nicholas Mahut .

“It was the first time I’ve seen him in person since the match,” Isner recalled.  What was it?  Monday morning, I didn’t fly into New York until Sunday night, so Monday midday I came to the courts for the first time.

“As soon as I stepped into the locker room, honestly he was the first person I saw.  We did the handshake, high five thing.  Sat and talked for about five minutes.  And ever since then, I keep running into him in the locker room and we talk.  I talk to his coaches.  He talks to my coach.

“Obviously, we’re definitely good friends now.”

Oz Just The Beginning For Roger

Last year, some wondered what happened to Roger Federer, especially after he dropped the Australian Open to Rafael Nadal.

This year, though, there’s no doubt the master is on track.

“It’s not something I’ve ever put in my mind that this is something I want to achieve,” Federer said after defeating Andy Murray in straight sets, 6-3 6-4 7-6. “I’ll still go and play the smaller tournaments, you know, the Masters 1000s, the ones we’re supposed to play. I try to give my best everywhere I go to, because I think there are not only the Grand Slams.

“Of course, they are important, but I try to respect every tournament that invites me to go play there. There’s the fans who pay tickets. I want to live up to my expectations, too.”

After a scare in the first round, Federer had a pretty easy time in the Oz Open as he dominated the competition in Melbourne. Although the more exciting matches over the past two weeks were played by others, the Swiss Master just went about his business.

“I always knew I had it in my hand,” he said. “The question is do I have it in my mind and in my legs, you know. That’s something I had to work extremely hard at. Now I feel like obviously I’m being pushed a great deal by the new generation coming up. I always feel sort of tennis changes sort of every five years.

“Because when I came on tour, matches were played very differently. It was more of a bluff game, guys serving well, but there was always a weakness you could go to. Today that doesn’t exist anymore. I think that’s also thanks to guys like Murray. They’ve made me a better player, because I think this has been one of my finest performances, you know, in a long time, or maybe forever.”

Now Federer is on track for that elusive Grand Slam. Even with all the major wins, he never won all four in a year, as the French always gave him problems. But now, after winning in Roland Garros last year, Federer has a real chance to nail down the elusive achievement.

Of course he will play the tournaments as they come, but Federer feels now that he’s in position to dominate everything in 2010.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to win your first Grand Slam,” Federer said. “That’s not mental, you know, trying to screw with his head, you know. It’s just a tough thing, you know.

“The next one is not going to get any easier. But his game is so good that I’m convinced he will win one, you know. And I thought he did really well tonight because conditions were tough. I mean, I think I played a great match. So someone’s got to win, and I’m happy it was me.”

The road ahead won’t be easy. Although Federer has said he’s become a better player, the rest of the field has become tougher as well. Besides the usual suspects, like Nadal, Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Roddick, upstarts like US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro have become elite players, who will give Federer fits as he tries to nail down the Slam.

Yet, that’s what keeps the Swiss Master going. With every match he learns something about himself, on his quest for perfection.

“[It’s] a tough generation at the moment,” Federer said. “There’s many guys. You know, I’ve dominated hard court and grass for a long time; Rafa did clay. Rafa also became very strong on the other surfaces and so forth.

“So I think it’s just not an easy thing to do, Grand Slams, and I proved it again tonight.”

One down. Three to go.