Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Two "Characters" in Search of a Semi
Home       About Peter Bodo       Contact        RSS       Follow on Twitter Categories       Archive
Two "Characters" in Search of a Semi 11/27/2010 - 9:51 AM

Novak

by Hannah Wilks, TW Contributing Writer

Sometimes you expect much more from a match than it delivers. This has been the case a lot this week, whether because of the weaknesses and flaws inherent in the round robin format or because sometimes it just happens that way. The strength of the ATP is so concentrated in its elite players that even among the top eight, a natural division has quickly emerged between the best and the rest. Three semi-finalists have already been settled, with the fourth to be determined by tonight's clash.

Surely this one won't disappoint. Two players from whom one never knows quite what to expect; Novak Djokovic, an unpredictable firecracker, prone to lapses of concentration and bizarre physical reversals, and Roddick, the workhorse who can be relied upon to give his all, but whose game can run the gamut from almost unbeatable to ineffectual.

Their head-to-head is 5-2 in Roddick's favour, which in theory looks one-sided, but most of those wins have come for the American during Djokovic's prolonged slump. I understand it's strange to use the word to describe the progress of a consistent trophy-lifter who has been, during his 'decline', as high as no. 2 in the world. But since Wimbledon 2008, Djokovic's game has touched for periods on every variant of toothless. His serve has been broken down and rebuilt, he's visibly struggled for confidence. He's often looked like a shadow of the cocky upstart who barged on to a world stage dominated by Federer and Nadal and demanded that they yield the floor.

But all of that has seemed like ancient history since Djokovic's September resurgence in New York, wher he defeated Federer and stretched Nadal in the final of the US Open. Surely this time he can take it to Roddick.

An extra frisson is added by the fact that at times these two don't seem to like each other very much. Whatever latent animosity exist came to the fore following Djokovic's last victory over Roddick at the 2008 US Open, when the Serb's attempts to retaliate against Roddick's mockery saw him booed by the New York crowds. That the spat was public seems inevitable, as both have well-deserved reputations for being entertainers, earned with Djokovic's impersonations and willingness to make fun of himself, Andy Roddick's sardonic wit in press conferences and on chat shows. They're frequently referred to as 'characters', actively seeking to be larger than life.

One thing that doesn't disappoint is Djokovic's entrance. Aware of the fact that the abiding impression he has made this week came when contact lens problems derailed what promised to be a classic encounter with Nadal, he takes the court accessorizing his grave expression with a rakish black eye patch. Solemnly letting the small mascot lead him to his chair, he fits the eyepatch on to her head and sends her on her way. It's possible to read the stunt as a plea for affection, but the twitch of his lips, betraying his own enjoyment, suggests that in the final analysis he did it because he knew he would relish the joke more than anyone. It's a generous piece of slapstick, and the crowd love it. It's hard to imagine Roddick doing the same thing.

There's an odd, tense atmosphere. The crowd are more well-oiled than usual, enthusiastic but ragged, with no consensus favorite. Someone yells out during Djokovic's service motion and is roundly tutted for his pains. On the evidence of the first few games, it's going to be a proper tussle - maybe not in terms of quality of tennis, but it promises to be a prolonged bout of psychological grappling. Roddick pushes from the baseline, mixing up spins and pace, giving the Serb all the rope he needs to hang himself. It works; the rallies end more often than not with an error from Djokovic. Seduced into these circuitous exchanges, Djokovic's aggressive instincts seem to desert him. It's puzzling;  how can Djokovic be out-defended when he's so much better at it? The simple answer is that Roddick seems to bring out the worst in Djokovic.

But Djokovic has come a long way. He rapidly gathers himself and finds purpose and aggression. As soon as he starts hitting forehands moving forward into the court, everything is different. You expect Roddick to hold his ground, but as soon as he meets with resistance, he crumbles, giving up the first service break with a backhand slice that drifts wide. He holds the next game, but cannot find the wherewithal to finish points. At one point, he was obliged to wait for Djokovic's third defensive, desperate lob to get the miss. Roddick gives up the set - and I do mean gives up - with another unforced error long over the baseline, and we plunge deep into the realms of the anti-climactic.

Djokovic has qualified for the semi-finals, and he knows it. All that is left on the line for the American is pride. It seems like that should be enough, but he still cannot capitalise on the momentary lack of attention with which Djokovic starts the second set. In fact, it's the American who is lacking in intensity. The usual audible heavy breathing, the huffing and puffing like a steam engine which seems to get him around the court, is absent. After a failed Hawkeye challenge, Roddick stares at the umpire with obvious displeasure. The crowd cheers, hoping for Roddick to shed his patience and get fired up. But his unbelievably passive play continues. Roddick has had his health issues this year, but this seems almost a trend, and it's worrying. How can such an energetic and forceful person play so timidly?

One could also ask how someone as complex as Djokovic, with all the faults and fissures of his past, can play a game so miraculously smooth? I could watch him hit all night, not that Roddick seems likely to enable it. I've been searching for an image that describes the flight of his groundstrokes, when it comes to me; the limpid parabola of a stone skimmed across water. There's so much talent evident in every stroke. It's exciting to watch, simply because we don't know yet how his week, his year, his career, will turn out.

Roddick, it is plain, has no surprises left. He makes a gallant last stand to hold his final service game, but succumbs on yet another unforced error long over the baseline. He leaves London with no wins, but the crowd cheer him out of the arena with an affection that clearly demonstrates that Roddick is best-liked these days as a plucky loser.

Djokovic stays to chat, joking with the crowd, friendly and adrenaline-drunk. He's twenty-three years old and has proved he has the ability to stay in the mix; he has unnumbered chances left to shape the rest of his story. Roddick's opportunities are growing few and far between; his time in London has already run out.   


1209
Comments
Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 12 13      >>

Posted by thebigapple 11/27/2010 at 09:58 AM

Busy on the other line.

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever): Bleed the vermillion 11/27/2010 at 10:00 AM

Can they sustain this intensity for 3 sets (if that)?

Posted by Master Ace 11/27/2010 at 10:01 AM

Rafael serving to stay in first set at 5-6

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/27/2010 at 10:03 AM

I felt sorry for David Ferrer, having to leave London without a win, but realized last night that I didn't feel sorry for Andy Roddick. I should like him more, since there have been many plucky losers among my favorites, but it's too late now. I missed yesterday's match, being social. I have to find a way to watch the semifinal today without being rude.

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:03 AM

Hah. Jason Goodall says Diego Maradona is supporting Djokovic this week. Roger's going to be upset to hear that. He thinks Maradona was over the moon to meet him.

Posted by for the love of sport 11/27/2010 at 10:04 AM

Depth Rafa...DEPTH!!!

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:04 AM

Eek Tie break time. Vamos Rafa!

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:06 AM

Wonderful depth there ftlos. 1-1 in the tiebreak.

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:08 AM

Mini-break for Rafa. C'mon Rafa!

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:09 AM

Great rally there by Rafa.

Posted by jodiecate 11/27/2010 at 10:12 AM

I'd really like to congratulate thebigapple for not saying "first", you're a legend!!

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:14 AM

I had to applaud Murray loudly for that point!
fantastic!

Posted by for the love of sport 11/27/2010 at 10:17 AM

And THAT is why I will love him till the day I die....

Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 11/27/2010 at 10:17 AM

Vamos Rafa!!

Phew! That's as close as sets can get.

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:19 AM

Ok Rafa. Carry on. One more set. You can do it!

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:19 AM

According to my commies, Rafa dropped 7 points on serve and Andy 8 in the 1st set.

Posted by for the love of sport 11/27/2010 at 10:19 AM

Errr...that was for Rafa...no offense Andy fans...I think he's playing great...just that Rafa just ups the ante when he needs to...and that is super cool...

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/27/2010 at 10:20 AM

Now 3 more sets to go for Fedal final.

Posted by mg 11/27/2010 at 10:20 AM

Awesome set! Reminiscent of Wimbledon.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/27/2010 at 10:20 AM

Phew !!!

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:20 AM

Murray only made one first serve in the tiebreak. After serving so phenomenally in the first set. Bad for Murray, but as a Rafa fan I'm awfully glad!

Posted by Tuulia 11/27/2010 at 10:20 AM

any food streams? mine have been crap

Posted by jodiecate 11/27/2010 at 10:21 AM

I love it when he gets a first set!!

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Flavia and Gisela YEC Doubles Champion) 11/27/2010 at 10:21 AM

I have a pretty good stream through Bet365. Ok off to watch the second set.

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:23 AM

Pffft. Lucky Murray with that late call. Thank goodness Rafa won the replay.

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/27/2010 at 10:23 AM

People still think it's impossible for Djokovic to beat Fed?

Posted by AB 11/27/2010 at 10:23 AM

Rafa won a mini-break, got up 5-2.
Murray won his service points to get to 4-5.
Murray played a brilliant 36-stroke rally (Rafa playing conservatively and played a drop shot that Murray returned curving away up the line - smothered the volley for a winner) much more aggressively than Rafa to get the mini-break back: 5-5
Rafa with a tough 1st serve: 6-5
Rafa wins the 1st set playing very aggressively: 7-5

Posted by thebigapple 11/27/2010 at 10:25 AM

i hope murray keeps his head up....this match could become a bust

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/27/2010 at 10:25 AM

Tina, not impossible, but why would Djoker want to ruin Fedal final? Everyone except you want the people's choice final. oh ha.

Posted by AB 11/27/2010 at 10:25 AM

Tina: I believe that this surface is good for both Novak and Roger so I expect their SF to be very close. If Novak serves well, he can win.

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:25 AM

Yeah, my Bet365 stream is working well too Angel, but I thought it was going to break up when this set started. I was panicking!

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Flavia and Gisela YEC Doubles Champion) 11/27/2010 at 10:27 AM

Tina I would like the other two to make it through to the final with either one winning. I guess you are not alone.

Posted by Arun 11/27/2010 at 10:27 AM

tina: afaik, some Djokovic fans always say that before a Fed-Novak match.
Its purpose is therapeutic rather than predictive if you ask me. :)
Rest assured, if you talk to any reasonable Fed fan, (s)he would admit Novak is certainly capable of winning it.

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:28 AM

Tina, I think Nole can win against Federer, definitely! In fact I'll be cheering for him. I don't think Fed has been all that sublime this week. He's been good but he hasn't had a really tough opponent. Hopefully Djokovic can be one today.

Posted by thebigapple 11/27/2010 at 10:28 AM

Do you think Maradona was over the moon to meet Nole? Is that why one supports one person or the other?

Anyway, these guys should be bedazzled by Maradona..not the other way around.

El Pibe may feel like encouraging a youngster..not Fed that is already a grandmaster like him?

Posted by GB 11/27/2010 at 10:28 AM

It would be a very good new if you could break here, Rafa!!

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/27/2010 at 10:28 AM

c'mon, 2 break points for Rafa! Take it to 2-0!

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:28 AM

Oh no! This is what I was fearing. Is Murray going to go away now?
I hope not...

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever): Bleed the vermillion 11/27/2010 at 10:29 AM

Murray is thinking too much. He is thinking too much. One could see him pulling back a tad bit to out-smart and maneuver that-which-cannot-be-maneuvered.

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:29 AM

Nole has been playing very well for the entirety of this YEC. In fact he might've come out 1st in his group if not for that optical malfunction vs. Rafa.

Posted by thebigapple 11/27/2010 at 10:29 AM

Considering Nole beat Fed at the Open...of course, Nole can beat him.We all hope not, but such are things of sport.

Posted by GB 11/27/2010 at 10:30 AM

Really well saved Muzz. But damn:((

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:30 AM

Rats. Rafa, you have to take those chances when you get them! But credit to Murray for saving the break point.

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:30 AM

Phew! deuce!
I just want another competitive set since I don't have a particular horse in this race :)

Posted by jodiecate 11/27/2010 at 10:30 AM

BIG THANKS for the detail AB!!
Tennis Earth is so dry...

Posted by for the love of sport 11/27/2010 at 10:31 AM

Oh Rafa ABYSMAL bp conversion rate, as usual...sigh...

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:32 AM

Nice hold in the end for Murray.
1 all in the second and no breaks for serve yet.

Posted by Tuulia 11/27/2010 at 10:33 AM

all fromsport streams died on me, ESPN VIVO at livescorehunter working so far, Spanish is fine for me... :)

Posted by zenggi 11/27/2010 at 10:33 AM

NP,
I posted this other livestreams on the other thread.
http://nl.justin.tv/macareno57

http://nl.justin.tv/78780

http://nl.justin.tv/tvenvivo4

Good luck!

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:34 AM

Finally found a good stream:

http://bit.ly/glXmik

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:34 AM

thebigapple at 10:28 AM "Do you think Maradona was over the moon to meet Nole? Is that why one supports one person or the other?

Anyway, these guys should be bedazzled by Maradona..not the other way around."

Maradona has apparently known Nole for a couple of years and has been a fan for awhile. Of course the guys should be bedazzled by him but Roger, with his usual humility, said that Maradona was more excited to meet him (Roger) than he was to meet Maradona and he (Roger) was plenty excited himself.

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:35 AM

zenggi, just took care of the prob, but gracias anyhoo.

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:35 AM

Opening here for Murray 15-30

Posted by GB 11/27/2010 at 10:35 AM

Don't you go giving bps Rafa!

Posted by lira vega 11/27/2010 at 10:37 AM

NP (didn't even know there was a new thread), TAT is talkabouttennis.com, many twibers have registered there in order to play Suicide pool...I meant to PM you something if you were registered, but I guess that was a "no"

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:37 AM

And a nice hold by Rafa this time.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/27/2010 at 10:37 AM

2-1 Rafa.

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:37 AM

On serve 2-1 for Rafa. I so much prefer Rafa serving first. Reduces the frazzle level a touch!

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:37 AM

Shrewd bod serve by Rafa. He escapes a 15-30 hole unscathed. 2-1.

Posted by zenggi 11/27/2010 at 10:38 AM

De nada, NP. :)

Posted by Andrew 11/27/2010 at 10:39 AM

Great play by Murray to hold from 15-40 down - first BPs in the match. But he holds, as does Nadal. 2-1, on serve in the second set. Nadal is hitting a high looping 2H BH with a bit of side spin to the ad side, a shot I've never seen before. It's very effective.

Posted by thebigapple 11/27/2010 at 10:39 AM

I read what Roger said...he did not exactly say that.

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:41 AM

lira vega, oh, I thought you were talking about my streaming problem. You don't seem willing to share this message here. May I at least ask what this is about?

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:41 AM

Andy is getting reacquainted with his serve. Rafa may regret not taking one of those 2BPs early on.

Posted by TMFunk 11/27/2010 at 10:43 AM

tba - no, but that never stopped anyone who already thinks the Fed is an arrogant SOB, did it? Not that he isn't, of course... :)

Posted by thebigapple 11/27/2010 at 10:43 AM

jksn, I find Roger forthright and honest...but often in pedantic English though.

I am not one for false humilty. I find it gutless. And somewhat insulting to me - as a part of the public.

Posted by TMFunk 11/27/2010 at 10:45 AM

frankly, if you know the outward personality of Maradona, how is it even possible that anyone could be more excited about anything than Maradona??!!

Posted by GB 11/27/2010 at 10:45 AM

Crap df for 30-30:( just no to a bp here, Rafa!

Posted by TMFunk 11/27/2010 at 10:45 AM

sorry - this is a thread for the Nadal-Murray match...lost my bearings a bit. Thats it from me on the topic. Back to regularly scheduled programming and apologies for the interruption!

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:46 AM

What did Roger say big apple? Did he not say that Maradona was more excited to meet him and that he himself was plenty excited?

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/27/2010 at 10:46 AM

C'mon Rafa 3-2!

Posted by Andrew 11/27/2010 at 10:47 AM

Two holds. Nadal's ploy of serving to Murray's FH has been outstanding today. 3-2 Nadal, on serve.

Posted by lira vega 11/27/2010 at 10:47 AM

I was, NP ;) (talking about streaming that is). But I'd have to give you log in details, so I'd rather not do it here cuz I don't know if there's a limit on how many people can log in at the same time on same account. Anyway, I see you're set now

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:47 AM

All right Rafa! On serve 3-2. Does the intensity seem to have dropped a tad to anyone else? Or is it just me who's a teensy bit less tense since Rafa has the first set in hand? LOL

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:48 AM

Muzz needs to find an extra gear. He ain't gonna survive on his serve alone today. Rafa's playing too well for that.

More S&V would be a good start.

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/27/2010 at 10:48 AM

Yeah, Maradona was the subject of a documentary by the Serbian Emir Kusturica, and has traveled there over the years, meeting all Serbian "celebrities", including Novak. I can't think of any Swiss filmmakers, or football teams for that matter.

I'm surprised - and delighted - that this is on ESPN3. The stream I've been using all week suddenly went wonky today.

Posted by Tuulia 11/27/2010 at 10:49 AM

thanks for streams zenggi

Posted by jackson 11/27/2010 at 10:50 AM

Rafa! You should have done a lot more with those shots at the net. Argghhh.

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:50 AM

Big mistake there by Rafa and I'm sure he knows it! He should have won that point. Maybe this will inspire Murray :)

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:50 AM

lira vega, that's reasonable. BTW there's a separate stream for TAT members?

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:51 AM

I like that last FH winner by Muzz. Keep it up, you're gonna need it.

Posted by GB 11/27/2010 at 10:51 AM

Well, my frazzle certainly hasn't gone down! really good service game from Muzz.

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:51 AM

Rafa is ahead in this match so far because he's been tough on serve. His ROS leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Posted by GB 11/27/2010 at 10:52 AM

0-15:( Frazzle

Posted by GB 11/27/2010 at 10:53 AM

Muzz upping the aggression. Crap 0-30 now:(((

Posted by thebigapple 11/27/2010 at 10:53 AM

Yep, the world is full of Serbian celebs.

It seems only fair that poor Muzz would get a set for his efforts.

Posted by for the love of sport 11/27/2010 at 10:53 AM

What's with the ufes Rafa...and DEPTH???

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:53 AM

Momentum changing here. Rafa's level has gone down... maybe he wants to play three sets for the heck of it ;-)

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/27/2010 at 10:53 AM

NO! 0-30... no no no. Fedal final?

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:53 AM

tina, you could've let us know about ESPN3 earlier.

Muzz is playing like Sampras! Wow! What aggression!

Posted by Blue moon 11/27/2010 at 10:53 AM

Hi all! Good match so far, yeah?

Jackson, here's a test -- think it's tense now, at 0-30? If so it was probably you. :D

Posted by Tuulia 11/27/2010 at 10:54 AM

loving zenggi's justintv stream with TVE's teledeporte, for me the Spanish is so much easier to understand than the South American version... :)

Posted by GB 11/27/2010 at 10:54 AM

Really well played Muzz. But urgghhhhh!!!! :((((

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:54 AM

Andy is now taking it to Rafa who is a tad tentative now.

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:54 AM

Muzz has really flattened out his groundies. A perfect CC FH sets him up for 3 BPs.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/27/2010 at 10:54 AM

Darn it! 0-40?? We want Fedal final! We want Fedal final! Now win next 3 straight points, Rafa!

Posted by GB 11/27/2010 at 10:55 AM

Rafa can't make a FS:((

Posted by lira vega 11/27/2010 at 10:55 AM

Hee, idea was to send you PM (private message) through TAT with a link to a different site and username and password for it. I guess I've gotten English-rusty what with not posting here as much as before.

Posted by x-fan 11/27/2010 at 10:55 AM

How did he make that? I really thought that was the break for Murray.

Anyway 2 more BPs

Posted by NP 11/27/2010 at 10:56 AM

Muzz you dumbass!!!!!! You had a putaway shot right there! WTF was that DS?!!!!!!! Dumbass!!!!!

2 BPs left.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 12 13      >>

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Leave a Comment



<<  Hell on Wheels The Deuce Club, 11.26  >>




Wild Women of the U.S. Open
Wild Men of the U.S. Open
Roddick's Imperfect World
"It's Kind of a Dance"
Nadal's Kneeds
The Racquet Scientist: Canadian Tennis
The Long and Short of It
This blog has 3693 entries and 1646147 comments.
More
More Video
Daily Spin