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Posts Tagged ‘Andy Roddick’

The Bad Boy And The Nice Girl

Aug 30, 2012 5 comments

It is true that the game is greater than the any of the players, but it is also true that the combination of players make the game. In the long run, the game is not necessarily affected by the loss of one player or two as new — and many a times better — players are ready to fill the gap. But for a period of time, the game defintiely feels a little incomplete, if not poorer. The feeling is enhanced when we expereince the loss of two players, and even more so when their styles offer a contrast.

Our game relies on contrast. Bjorn Borg wouldn’t have been as great if not for John McEnroe. Andre Agassi brought out the best in Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer cannot be talked without mentioning Rafael Nadal. Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters weren’t contrasting in styles, but in terms of character. Kim Clijsters is the girl next door, the quintessential nice girl who is universally loved, is affectionately called “Aussie Kim” in Australia, and also considered a local in New York. In fact, she is so nice, that even when she embarrases someone, she does it gracefully and elegantly, and without making the other person feel bad.

But the world would be boring with just nice people. And Andy Roddick is that bad boy in the town. Bad not in terms of … actually being bad, but being blunt and straight forward. One who always kept it crisp and short, and always said what he felt without caring about what the world thinks. To his credit, even though he seemed unreasonable or a brat (even a bully) many times, he was always straight forward. And as much as we like to despise the bad guys and love the good ones, the game would not be interesting enough.

Their retirements, at 30 and 28 years respectively, come oddly at a time when the average age in tennis has increased courtesy of Tommy Haas’s resurgance and Serena’s and Federer’s dominance, but they cannot be faulted for not giving enough. In fact, these two players are the exact examples of success against the odds.

Clijsters showed that it is never late to taste success and make amends for an unfulfilled career. She was the perennial bridsemaid, who was overshadowed by her more accomplished and talented compatriot. She took a break and came back stronger than before and is now leaving (again) being much more fulfilled than when she last left the game. She is the proof that nice guys do not always finish last.

Roddick, on the other hand, showed that hard work trumps talent. Never the one to shy away from the practice courts, he achieved early success, and rather unfairly, bore the expectations of American tennis after they were used to success during their golden 80s and 90s decades. He got eclisped by more talented colleagues, and tournament after tournament faced disappointments which peaked in the semifinals at Australian Open ’07. Still he went back to drawing board, improved his consistency and came back to challenge the most accomplished grass court player in the finals of the holy grail of tennis in his most disappointing loss of the career. But like Roddick said, he is not used to running away from things as he came back and triumphed at Miami in 2010 for one of his more celebrated wins of his career. And it is fitting, that he will go out on a winning note against the man who tormented him the most.

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Chip-n-Charge, Slice-n-Dice. A Lost Art?

Sep 6, 2011 Leave a comment
An aggressive slice is almost becoming extinct these days

An aggressive slice is almost becoming extinct these days

The fact that serve-n-volley is practically dead today has been a common discussion point among tennis afficianadoes. While it is true that it is now an extinct art, I do not miss that aspect of the same so much. There is still great baseline tennis on offer and the spectacular winners from the far court than makes up for that. In fact, I enjoy the occasional serve-n-volley points that players do today as an element of surprise, which is why I enjoy watching players like Roger Federer, Mardy Fish, Jo Wilfried Tsonga (coupled with Michael Llodra).

The side effects of the above has been more telling, in my opinion. One of them is the slow decay of the backhand ‘slice’. I know what you are saying. Don’t players today use slices a lot? Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have a great slice, Novak Djokovic does it sometimes, and Andy Roddick has modeled his backhand purely on the slice as the zip on his two hander has declined over the years. In fact, youngsters like Dolgopolov use it heavily, and yesterday’s match against Djokovic was a great example. The Ukranian troubled the Serb for the greater part of the first set with the lack of pace generated through the slice.

But the common pattern among all of these players is the exclusive use of defensive slice. Most of them use slice only when they are not in a position to hit a strong two hander. In fact, the aggressive slice down-the-line, one of the more difficult shots in the game, is almost absent in the game. There were countless times in yesterday’s match, when I yelled from my seat, “Slice to the forehand!” It never came. Or it came only when Djokovic was present mid court, and was in a great position to make a decent pass. Just like the backhand down-the-line is used to open up the court, the slice up-the-line was a great ploy used by serve-n-volley players which either resulted in some of the best running forehands or in a makeable volley at the net.

Dologopolov used heavy cuts on the slice, which were devoid of any pace and stayed very low even on these courts which have more bounce than in the previous years. For some time it troubled Djokovic, but it was only a matter of time before this pattern became routine, and Djokovic, with arguably the best backhand of all times, started handling it easily.

The other side effect has been the inability to recognize a good approach shot and closing in on the net. The sight of Roddick becoming a dead duck at the net against Federer occurs frequently in their encounters. Yesterday, Kuznetsova was passed time and again against Wozniacki. Part of it was because she made wrong approaches by hitting to Wozniacki’s stronger wing, the backhand. The inability to hit a good slice up-the-line to Wozniacki’s forehand was clearly exposed. And because she was passed so frequently, she became cautious and did not come forward on a potentially good approach. The other part of it was the lack of confidence to take the net which resulted in her being in no (wo)man’s land in the mid-court. She had to take  a lot of difficult half volleys as a result which were easy pickings for the Dane.

The very fact that even Federer, the best aggressive player of this era, has hired Paul Annacone to improve his chip-n-charge proves that this part of our game is fast becoming extinct.

U.S. Open ’11: Mid Week Wrap Up

Sep 4, 2011 4 comments
The first week of U.S. Open had everything to offer ... except Irene

The first week of U.S. Open had everything to offer ... except Irene

Biggest Upsets

It was unfortunate (or does it further proves the presence of chaos in the WTA?) that the three women slam winners of this year all were out of the U.S. Open after the very first day. Kim Clijsters already pulled out with an injury, while Li Na continued to show her inconsistent form this year. She lost five straight matches after Australian Open, and has won only a couple of them after French Open. Of course, her run to the finals at Australian Open and the maiden Slam victory at French Open more than compensates for all her other failures. The Wimbledon champ, Petra Kvitova, is still looking for solutions to her hard court problems as she crashed out in the very first round as well.

Meanwhile, the men’s side has sailed pretty smoothly, barring the biggest shocker of the tournament, as the Mumma’s boy, Donald Young, finally became a man by defeating an ATP heavyweight in Stan Wawrinka. He came from two sets to one down, failed to serve out the match in the fifth, and then dominated the final set tie-breaker which brought the crowd to its feet. While such big upsets are usually followed by tame defeats, Young avoided that by upsetting the 24th seed, Juan Ignacio Chela in a very routine manner. Is this finally the arrival of the Donald?

Biggest Disappointments

Marin Cilic was a part in both of them. First he defeated the upcoming American youngster, Ryan Harrison, in a dominant fashion. What was disappointing was not that Harrison lost, but the tame manner in which he failed to put up any fight. All the hopes generated after his successful U.S. Open series were shattered barely two hours after the tournament commenced. Cilic continued his manhandling of youngsters, by surrending a mere three games to Bernard Tomic, who had raised a lot of hopes after his success at Wimbledon.

Biggest Positives

Donald Young, in all likelihood, will fail to win a set against Andy Murray in the fourth round (even though he had beaten him in their last encounter at Indian Wells this year), but the manner in which he held his nerves to beat a top seed in the final set tie-breaker was more than praiseworthy.

On the women’s side, the American teenager Sloane Stephens reached the third round of a Slam for the first time in her career. While she did not have a run like Melanie Oudin had in ’09, she does not show signs of fading like her, either. At 5’8″, she is considerably taller than her compatriot and will go stronger with time.

Bakery at Flushing Meadows

NewYork is known for bagels and breadsticks, and for good reason. While bagels are common on the women’s tour, this time it was prominent on the men’s tour too. Novak Djokovic almost created history when leading 6-0 6-0 2-0 against Carlos Berlocq, as the latter barely avoided the embarrasment of a triple bagel by winning a couple of games. Tomas Berdych also served a couple of bagels to Fabio Fognini. The others who cashed in includes Dolgopolov, Cilic, Tipsarvic (twice), Murray, Davydenko, Gasquet, Sela, Anderson, Hasse, Ferrer, Mayer, Mahut and … suprise surpise, Berlocq himself. In fact, it was pretty ironic for Berlocq, as he himself had a dominant first round victory that included a bagel and a breadstick.

David towers Goliath

At exactly six feet, Gilles Simon is half a foot shorter than Juan Martin del Potro and a good 30 pounds lighter. Del Potro has the massive serve and forehand, while Simon is just a hapless counterpuncher. Del Potro is a champion having won here in 2009 (and how!) while Simon is a now a father, and a former top-10 player. And yet, when the giant from Tandil met the diminutive Frenchmen, the roles were reversed. Simon hit four times as many aces as Del Potro (thirteen against three), committed half the number of double faults, and hit 11 more winners as he marched towards a four set win. Del Potro was hitting bigger during most of the match, but Simon outhit him when push came to shove. David downed Goliath once again.

The Great Escape

After the disappointment at the Aussie Open, Andy Murray has been tentative throughout. He has dug a lot of holes for himself through the year, and got out of them in fine fashion as well. A lot of times he was down a set and a break, but came back to win the match. In a lot of matches, he routinely went 4-0 or 5-0 down, only to win the set 7-5 or 7-6. It seems he needs the fear of embarrassment or upset to bring out his best. Turns out, that exactly was required against Robin Hasse, as he won the match despite being down two sets to love.

Searching for Nails

The exuberance and charisma of Gael Monfils against the consistency of Juan Carlos Ferrero. The acrobatics of Monfils, the calm of Ferrero. The over-the-top winners of Monfils, the clay-feet of Ferrero. A spectacular eighty one winners and twenty one aces from Monfils. Eighty one unforced errors and ten double faults from the same guy. Only two aces from Ferrero, yet one of them when he was 30-0 up in the final game. Difference of just one point between the two players. Five tough sets over four hours and forty eight minutes. What’s not to love?

… And some Drama

Andy Roddick, when asked about how he handled criticism from the media, gave them a dose of their own medicine. Djokovic, tired of impersonations, showed some of his dancing skills. Venus Williams’ outfit did not spark a controversy. Nadal had no injury problems during his matches, but collapsed with cramps during a press interview. Roddick later clarified saying, “Every single player in there has had that happen before. Every single one. What we do—we run around, run miles and miles and miles and miles on the tennis court in nasty weather—(and) you throw nerves in there. I mean, it happens. As long as it doesn’t happen during a match, you’re fine.”

Crystal Ball

Men’s Semifinalis: Djokovic d. Federer, Murray d. Roddick

Men’s Champion: Novak Djokovic

Women’s Semifinals: Serena d. Petkovic, Stosur d. Pennetta

Women’s Champion: Serena Williams