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On appreciating Andy Roddick

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Andy Roddick is not my favorite player. Perhaps never will be. There is something about his style of play, that robotic backhand that gives him so much trouble, his natural lack of speed on court, that makes him a bit unappealing to me. Over the years he has berated Chair Umpires more than once, and has certainly abused spectators or fans on some occasions. These are attitudes that are not to be liked. But over the same few years there has been a certain quality in him, which has nothing to do with his tennis, which has been endearing. I have found myself at times rooting for him, and have enjoyed some of his victories. But again, my favorite player he is not.
But there is that quality. Roddick is a true person. His press conferences reveal a rather pleasant personality at times, a man that is quick with a joke and with wits that most other players lack. It is to be understood that he has an advantage over most other players because most press conferences are held in English, his native tongue. Nadal, for example, still does not command English well enough to crack jokes left and right, and why should he? When you enjoy a press conference with Nadal, in Spanish, he is also grace personified. But not like Roddick. Roddick lets you know who he is, what he thinks.
He is truly not afraid that people will understand him.
Still, that is not the quality that has slowly attracted me.
I was able to finally pin it down on July 5th, 2009. After 4 ˝ hours of breathtaking tennis, Andy Roddick framed a rather routine forehand, and his Wimbledon dream again evaporated. He tossed his racket from afar, into his chair, and approached his nemesis and sincerely shook hands with him. And he sat on his chair, and allowed the camera to pan his face, his expressions, his mood.
He never blinked. His eyes were red, tired, wasted. You could read perfectly well the emotions in there.
He kept his eyes open. He knew that if he would blink, the tears would run down.
He waited for the ceremony to begin. The crowd cheered his name. He got up and received, for the third time, the runner up plate. And in that rather cruel tradition at important tournaments, he was asked a few questions. He was asked if he felt tennis was the cruelest of sports. He rebutted that, simply but forcefully. He cracked a joke with Pete Sampras:
“I tried to hold him off. Sorry, Pete”.
The quality was there to see, in plain view. Just a few months earlier, in Australia, his nemesis, already holding 13 Grand Slams, was unable not to choke under similar circumstances. Another god of tennis, Mr. Borg, bolted out of Louis Armstrong’s stadium after his defeat there in 1981. Many champions have been unable to do what Andy Roddick did.
All the hard work? To be applauded, but that is not it. All the training? Again, commendable. But that is not it.
Andy Roddick is stoic. At Wimbledon, of all places, he kept a stiff upper lip, and took this crushing defeat with courage. With grace.
Andy Roddick is not the best player in the world. But he met triumph and disaster and treated them both the same. At Wimbledon.
Like a man. Like a REAL man.

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Comments

  1. munchin's Avatar
    So well said, ponchi
  2. nelslus's Avatar
    You bring up some excellent points. And, I must emphasize how much I enjoy Andy's terrific sense of humor, and his great timing. So, ya had me with a lot of this blog. And, THEN....(well- see my blog for more....)
  3. Kirkus's Avatar
    Thank you!
  4. Scotty's Avatar
    lovely blog. Andy DOES have something about him, doesn't he?
  5. Madame's Avatar
    Ponchi, you've put in words many of my thoughts. Andy has had a great attitude that commands respect. You have my admiration too mr Roddick.
  6. atlpam's Avatar
    Well said - like you, I've never been a big fan of Roddick or his tennis game, but I found myself rooting for him by the 4th set and know how difficult it must have been for him to maintain composure after such a tough loss on the grandest tennis stage. I can only hope he has another opportunity to win Wimby.