As a fan of tennis for a long time, I remember seeing the great American tennis players like Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, and John McEnroe always put on a wonderful show in the main events. They made it interesting and they rose to the challenges of the Grand Slam tournaments. Then there was Pete Sampras, the greatest American tennis player of all time, and it was just a joy to watch him on the court. At this time of year during Wimbledon, I wish there was an American player like this on the court. Sadly, there is not.
I am not sure what happened to Andy Roddick along the way, but for a guy who has made over $20 million in his career, he has left little impression in the moments that count over the last nine years. Take his last match at Wimbledon 2012. The 30th seed lost to Spaniard David Ferrer 6-2, 6-7 (8-10), 4-6, 3-6 in what was a classic case of a Roddick meltdown. After dominating in the first set, the turnaround came after he lost a hard fought second set. The third and fourth sets saw Roddick fade away and Ferrer won easily.
This is the same Andy Roddick who boasts the 150+ miles per hour serve, the one who won at the U.S. Open in 2003 and became ranked #1 shortly thereafter. He was one of People’s sexiest men alive (there seems to be too many guys formerly in this category these days) and he is, of course, married to Brooklyn Decker, certainly one of the most beautiful women on the planet. His life would seem to be charmed in many ways, but success in the matches that count has been elusive.
He can win (and win decisively) as recently displayed last month at the AEGON International in England. It does seem though that when he gets on the big stage (meaning one of the Grand Slams) he falters and does so precipitously, as seen in the match against Ferrer. It is obvious that he is a well-conditioned and talented athlete, so what is happening to him?
After this last match Roddick sort of told the press that he could be done. “I don’t have a definitive answer, I can’t give you much else,” he said. In a symbolic gesture that only confirmed that this was his last Wimbledon in the minds of many, he blew a kiss to the fans and the stadium, looking more than anything like a final farewell. We tennis fans can only scratch our heads and wonder why.
My father is a bigger tennis fan than I am, and he jokingly blames the beautiful women in tennis players lives. He will note what Brooke Shields did to Andre Agassi’s game and that Bridgette Wilson did the same thing to Sampras, and now Brooklyn is having the negative effect on Andy. Dad even claims that Agassi became a better player once he and Shields parted ways, but I wonder if that had more to do with him having a love match with Steffi Graf (arguably the greatest female tennis player ever) who understood the nature of the game better than Shields and could provide the support he needed.
Whatever the case, it seems to me that Andy Roddick is the greatest tennis player that never was. He had shown such amazing potential, but as he is turning 30 this August, the chances are that he will never ascend to the level that once seemed to be within his grasp. If his comments and actions after the loss to Ferrer are any indication, Roddick may have come to terms with the end being near. Now it is time for the rest of us to do so as well.
Photo Credits: roddick-getty images; decker-imbd.com