Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - No Quit
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No Quit 02/25/2009 - 1:44 PM

ArIt didn’t take long for the widely anticipated “bump” to happen. By that I mean, it didn’t take long for Andy Roddick’s results to improve under the watch of a new coach. When he hired Brad Gilbert, he won the U.S. Open. When he hired Jimmy Connors, he reached the Open final and put the heat on Roger Federer when he got there. Now, a couple months after hiring Larry Stefanki, he has won . . . the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis.

OK, that doesn’t have the quite the same ring as “U.S. Open." Regions Morgan Keegan sounds more like a teenage TV star than a tennis tournament. And rather than being played in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the event is held in a racquet club with a low, triangular roof and wooden, high-school-basketball-style bleachers. Nevertheless, Memphis is a 500-level tournament, and to take home his 27th career title Roddick had to avenge a loss from the previous week against the always-tricky Radek Stepanek in the final. As Stefanki said afterward, “He’s done this 26 times before, so he knows how to win. But it feels good.”

We can assume that a major part of these bumps in Roddick’s play come not from any technical changes that his coaches make, but from the fresh energy and belief they instill in him. Unlike Federer, Roddick likes and needs mentors—he’s a younger brother at heart. But Stefanki did come in with definite technical and tactical ideas about how Roddick could get better—has he made a difference on that front?

The first thing I remember Stefanki mentioning when he got the job was Roddick’s return of serve. It was hardly a secret that this was a weakness; no less an authority than Andre Agassi had called Roddick out on it while commentating for ESPN at the Aussie Open in 2007. He said that Roddick simply didn’t do enough with the ball, particularly on second serves, and this allowed his opponents to take control of points right away. It appears that Stefanki has been addressing this. Against Stepanek, Roddick was taking his returns earlier and hitting them farther out in front of his body on both sides. More crucially, he was “cutting off the angle,” as tennis coaches like to say. Rather than waiting for the serve to reach him, he was moving on a diagonal to meet it earlier and get his body moving forward.

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s easier to return aggressively against a serve-and-volleyer like Stepanek. You have a target, you have a reason to keep the ball low, and you don’t have to worry about the depth of your shot. All these elements help focus a returner, and it was true for Roddick on Sunday. Even when he missed, he punched back with more conviction and forward motion on his return. Doing that requires shortening your normal backswing, which isn’t easy; Roddick was most successful on his backhand side, where his two-handed swing is naturally shorter. At 6-5, 30-30, he reflexed an inside-out return pass winner by Stepanek to get to set point. In the past couple of years, outright, head-turning winners like that have been rare from his racquet.

Stefanki believes in the power of practice and repetition, and in Memphis this seemed to have paid off on Roddick’s backhand side. He was hitting the ball a little more crisply, especially when Stepanek pressured him; the American knocked off a few down the line passes on key points. On the forehand side, Roddick has added a little extra whip upward for topspin. I don’t know if this is intentional, but my first reaction is that it will only encourage him to keep pulling off the ball on that side, which has already robbed that shot of power for years. The biggest weakness in Roddick’s game is his crosscourt forehand, particularly when he uses it as an approach shot. It already has too much topspin, which makes it sit up in his opponent’s strike zone—it’s a shot that has helped make Roger Federer look like an athletic genius for years.

Compare Roddick's game to Stepanek’s. The Czech is a more natural shot-maker; his strokes take less time to happen but produce more penetration through the court—his timing is better. Stepanek also peppered this match with unlikely winners, such as a running shoe-top crosscourt forehand volley. Only a natural talent can improvise like that on a regular basis. Besides that, he made me laugh with one of his usual stagy antics: After winning a point on a lucky let cord, he held his racquet out for a few seconds in apology, then, in the same motion, began to shake the racquet in a “come on!” gesture. Finally, an honest reaction to a lucky winner.

But while Stepanek was the better shotmaker and entertainer, Roddick won the match. We may complain that he doesn’t do enough with the ball, but is his safety-first approach the smarter way to go? Roddick spends most of his time spinning his forehand down the middle and blandly chopping his backhand far from any line. While this has made him a whipping boy for Federer, it’s worked against virtually everyone else—as I mentioned, he has won 27 ATP tournaments. At some point, you can’t disconnect his safe style from his consistent success. In this sense, Roddick, despite Connors’ attempt to make him more aggressive, remains a product of Gilbert’s coaching—take away Andy’s serve and his game starts to look a little like Brad’s. The results do as well—Gilbert won 20 tournaments but never went deep at a major. I get the feeling Stefanki realizes this and will work around the edges of Roddick’s game without trying to make him into anything fancier than he is.

I can’t say Roddick’s game itself thrills me, but I have always found him interesting to watch, in part because his personality is much roomier and more contradictory than most athletes’. Cocky, crestfallen, deferential, smart, down-to-earth, funny, fratty, rude—like a little brother, he’s always out to prove himself, which is what makes him such an enthusiastic competitor after all the years and all the Grand Slam disappointments and all the drubbings by his old rival Federer. If the mantra of this country in the Obama era is going to be, “We’re not quitters,” it would be hard to find a better role model than Andy Roddick.


Posted by SwissMaestro 02/25/2009 at 01:56 PM


All out of the sudden I feel like you are trying to find ways to undermine Federer's talent when it comes down to beating his opponents just because he does not wint as much as he used to. Like his victories over Roddick are more a product of Roddick's failure to capitalize on opportunities rather than Federer's ability to "pepper him" like you say. It is incredible how much people and the media in general change over the course of 7 or 8 months...

Posted by Nik 02/25/2009 at 01:57 PM

Nice article, Steve, and some interesting observations. It seemed like for the longest time, Roddick would stand too far behind the baseline and be the consummate retriever in spite of having a huge serve. I think there is a bit of Connors in the fact that he doesn't do that as much anymore.

And Agassi needs to do more commentary.

Posted by Master Ace 02/25/2009 at 02:01 PM

Very good write up on Andy Roddick. Also, did you see that turnaround BH by Radek for a winner after Andy lobbed over his head as Radek camped at the net as usual?

Posted by 02/25/2009 at 02:34 PM

federer is not as good as nadal;

federer has a losing record against murray, simon giles, ...

and I am stating the truth;

not undermining federer ;

understand swissmaestro at 1.56 !!

Posted by raul 02/25/2009 at 02:40 PM

i have never been a fan of roddick, basically because it was too one-dimensional. big serve, boom-boom, and as long as the serve was clicking all was good, but once his opponent started reading it and getting it back he would always get behind in rallies.

i have to admit now that roddick 2009 , while not being spectacular and jaw-dropping, his game has more variety and his matches have become more interesting( against djokovic in ao, vs.stepanek last weekend)

and you can't deny the guy puts a lot of effort in what he does

Posted by Amit 02/25/2009 at 02:57 PM


"it’s a shot that has helped make Roger Federer look like an athletic genius for years."

Interesting. It does sound like Roger needs that particular prop to be considered a great athlete. Could one similarly say -
"The fact that Fed has a 1HBH makes Nadal look like an incredible tennis player"?

Posted by Amit 02/25/2009 at 02:58 PM

About Roddick's persistent effort over the years and a rock-solid resume, quite agree.

Posted by PC 02/25/2009 at 03:10 PM

You can't take away andy's Grand Slam and 27 titles. Or his bank account. Or his hot fiance.

And he seems to be having fun.

And I love his Davis Cup loyalty and results.

Posted by Rachael 02/25/2009 at 03:17 PM

thanks for this little insight, especially as I didn't get to watch the Memphis final.

I'm not sure how indignant Fed fans can be upon reading a few throw away lines giving Roddick a bit of credit. it feels like a long time since Andy received praise for more than his press conferences. it's hardly a statement that Federer got lucky with his sixteen triumphs. more Roddick got unlucky.

thought this: "Unlike Federer, Roddick likes and needs mentors—he’s a younger brother at heart." was interesting since John has been picking up the coaching slack inbetween the big names but not exactly doing wonderous things to Andy's game.

Posted by Libby 02/25/2009 at 03:18 PM

Thank you for another interesting article, Steve. I am hoping for good things for Andy this year -- he doesn't get nearly enough credit for his consistent top-ten results over the years.

And I have to say that when the day comes that Andy decides he's done with competing I'm *really* looking forward to hearing him in the commentator's booth.

Posted by Kristy 02/25/2009 at 03:28 PM

I like the "younger brother at heart" analysis. That birth order stuff really does seem to have impact.

Posted by dc fan 02/25/2009 at 03:34 PM

Great write up on the underrated Andy Roddick, Steve. He's impressed me not only with his relentless competitive spirit and candid humor but with the exemplary character he showed by boycotting Dubai, where he was defending champion. To that I say, BRAVO ANDY.

Can't see the likes of Federer ever doing that, or standing up for anyone other than himself.

Posted by Fudoshin 02/25/2009 at 03:35 PM

Steve, thank you for a nice article about Roddick. Roddick may not be as talented and creative as some others, but he is a genuine person and a good player. It is nice to see that he is reaping results from working with a new coach.

Thank you also for giving Stepanek credit for his natural talent. All too often the American commentators make derogatory remarks about his antics, as if that was the only reason that he wins. Stepanek is, as you said, a remarkable natural talent, whether you like him or otherwise.

Posted by Corrie 02/25/2009 at 04:15 PM

"Can't see the likes of Federer ever doing that (boycotting Dubai)or standing up for anyone other than himself" shows a lot of unfair ignorance.

Fed single handedly organised a large players' fundraising response to a very great cause, the tsunami: he also visited the ravaged areas and was greatly moved. Ditto in South Africa, he is after all, a UNESCO ambassador and known for his considerable work in these areas. He works for causes other than himself more than any other top player has while still actively playing.

It was great that Roddick spoke up but it's more difficult for Fed when he has a residence in Dubai hanging on the goodwill of the rulers there. And why single him out? Nadal is #1 and he said nothing.

Posted by annabelle 02/25/2009 at 05:18 PM


why are you always unfair to Roger? Are you upset that your dearest american players are way behind Roger's talent? shame on you. you use your post to always undermine hime. if you are paid to throw praises on andy, do not use Roger to make andy look better. andy did not go to dubai coz of shahar. he played and won in keegan morgan tournament on sunday. how can he play in dubai on monday? dubai's time DIFFERENCE is hours ahead of US. iT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO PLAY IN DUBAI EVEN IF HE WANTED TO. HE HAS TO FLY, REST AND GET ACCUSTOMED TO THE WEATHER. ANDY DID NOT PLAN TO PLAY WHETHER THERE WAS A SHAHAR INCIDENT OR NOT. HE JUST USE IT TO MAKE HIM LOOK BETTER.

Posted by † Hallelujah 02/25/2009 at 05:28 PM

that forehand of Roddick's is so stunted with his elbow tucked to close to his body and the safety spin. This isn't gonna change, that's just how he hits his FH.

Posted by aga khan 02/25/2009 at 05:53 PM

he is after all, a UNESCO ambassador and known for his considerable work in these areas.

Anyone find it a odd that both he and ana ivanovic would be UNESCO ambassadors and represent Rolex in print ads?

Posted by Pspace 02/25/2009 at 06:12 PM

Good points about the defensive style working for Roddick. But, it will prolly always make me cringe, when a guy with that kind of serve plays his forehand so conservatively. Stefanki mentioned that Roddick plays with too open a stance to generate enough penetration. He's a little lazy on footwork for easy forehands. Hopefully, they can improve this.

Posted by ryan 02/25/2009 at 06:13 PM

andy roddick is a wonderful human being! thank you mr. roddick for not playing Dubai...! thank you.
you are a better person than a tennis player (and you aint bad at tennis either my friend! :)

your biggest fan,

Posted by torquewip 02/25/2009 at 07:13 PM

Stop using Roddick to undermine Federer's genius. Federer is the best shot maker in the game. Nadal is not anywhere close to Federer in that department.

Posted by SwissMaestro 02/25/2009 at 07:14 PM

headless poster at 2.34 pm-

You could show some more courage displaying your name. Anyway, Amit shut you up at 2.57 pm... well done Amit!

Posted by Subhadeep 02/25/2009 at 07:16 PM

SwissMaestro, annabelle, and many other Roger fans ...

I am a huge Federer fan BUT we should be ready to take criticism and hear them in blogs like this about Federer when he does not play well.

I find an interesting analogy between Roddick and Federer with the backhand weakness in return. Federer is way stronger than Roddick BUT some of the backhand returns during the Nadal final in AO were just terrible. Nadal was putting in 60 mph 2nd serves and all Federer was doing was putting it back and either equalling the advantage the rally or giving it back to Nadal. Even someone like Serena can hit clean winners off many of those Nadal 2nd serves.

There has been much written of Federer's desire to win and his breaking down during the trophy ceremony BUT I can't buy that. I do realize with greatness comes stubbornness and Federer refuse to do something different to return Nadal's serve especially the 2nd serve other than slice it back with nothing on. As great as Federer is Nadal is also pretty much up there. Maybe he can beat the others with that kind of return and find a way to win BUT not against Nadal.

So give props to players when they deserve and accept criticism of your tennis player when he deserves it too!

Posted by Tennis fan 02/25/2009 at 07:27 PM

I also like to thank you for praising Stepanek. I love watching this guy's game. He's definitely something different on the tour, brings in tennis moments that remind me more of the 1980s and 1990s. And yes I do find that those times were great. Stepanek, despite his unorthodox style, is an incredibly gifted player - physically and tennis wise. What surprises me though is his rather awkward backhand and forehand swing - definitely not the most beautiful swings. On the other hand, in terms of his net game, he's probably one of the best in the top 20 now - I would not be worried to say that he's the best at the net (Federer's game at the net is often overrated in my opinion...the AU09 final as an example). Strange do you explain that Stepanek has so much touch for the ball and yet such a strange baseline technique? Almost reminds of John the Mac.

Posted by Skip1515 02/25/2009 at 08:31 PM

I couldn't agree more with all you wrote, Steve. As others have noted, the "younger brother" insight seems very accurate.

It was my observation at the time that Gilbert told Roddick he didn't have to drop the hammer during points as early as he had been, much as BG had counselled Agassi. Unlike Agassi however, Roddick lacked (lacks) the same weight of shot and, more critically, the outlandish mental strength that allowed Agassi to relentlessly pound opponents until they cried "Uncle".

I have no tangible evidence for it, but I've always believed that had the Gilbert/Roddick pairing continued, Gilbert would have steered Roddick away from the overly passive tactics BG's early advice devolved into.

For the sake of having even more interesting tennis in 2009, here's hoping Stefanki brings that and more to Roddick's game. Better later than never.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 02/25/2009 at 08:50 PM

Always an honor to follow old friend, skip1515. ;-)

I personally feel that Roddick's two most glaring problems are this:

1. He does not strike his forehand early enough or at a high enough point to earn the time advantage and flatten it out for the easier winner. Instead, he lets it drop down into the "pocket" -- that comfort zone we amateurs know all too well, giving his opponent time to read his intent and prepare their feet and court position, while forcing himself to hit with more topspin or loop than ideal for a putaway shot from midcourt or further back.

2. His bakhand, while a solid shot, particularly down the lin, is almost too short and therefore he cannot seem to put much mustard on it unless the power is supplied by his opponent. Give Andy a slow to medium-paced ball deep to his backhand, and he'll likely give you another good chance to strike with something much m ore lethal.

That said, he's a compelling sports figure, a gamer, and a good bloke. It's hard not to like him or rpull for him, particularly on U.S. soil.

Posted by Chris in Alabama 02/25/2009 at 09:38 PM

Unlike a lot of my fellow Americans, Roddick has guts. No one can deny this guy has the intestinal fortitude that we should all look up to.

Posted by pollypurebred 02/25/2009 at 09:45 PM

Boy, those fed fans are certainly sensitive.

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray - they all should have commented, or boycotted Dubai. So Fed has a home there - I think for someone who could afford a home anywhere in the world, the fact that he purchased one in this country says a lot.

And the non reaction of the WTA - the Williams sisters in particular is deplorable. Haven't they been boycotting Indian Wells for years? Of all female tennis players, I expected more from the two of them.

As for Roddick - we've seen this genius before with each new coach. We'll see how long the results and the relationship last.

Posted by Grey 02/25/2009 at 10:02 PM

The true measure of how good Roddick's new game will measured in a tournament with a deep field, with all the top guns playing. =p

Posted by jon 02/25/2009 at 10:11 PM

pollypurebred, the williams sisters have to pay for their cheeseburgers SOMEHOW

Posted by skip1515 02/25/2009 at 10:12 PM

Oh no, after you, Alphonse.

Thanks, s-n-d.

BTW, Steve, nice Joycean title.

Posted by Backhand blaster 02/25/2009 at 10:23 PM

Somebody a long time ago sold Roddick on the idea that he was a "heavy weight". And while it was true he had a huge serve, the rest of his game really was that of a grinder.
What his latest coach got right was that if Andy is to try to compete again at the top levels...for the slams he had to lose weight. 15 pounds is a lot of weight to drag around a tennis court. However fast Roddick is now, he is a lot faster than he was last year. And against Federer, Nadal and Djokovic he'll need every step.
Props again to Andy for making a statement by NOT attending Dubai.

Posted by P66 02/25/2009 at 10:25 PM

What a sad thing to compare Roddick with Federer. They are not close by any means. Look at the stats between them. Let Roddick have any coach and he can never come close to Federer.

Posted by P66 02/25/2009 at 10:27 PM

What a sad thing to compare Roddick with Federer. They are not close by any means. Look at the stats between them. Let Roddick have any coach and he can never come close to Federer.

Posted by Corrie 02/25/2009 at 10:30 PM

I agree that Fed should rethink his base in Dubai. I understand why he did it: great weather for training, conditioning to heat, breaking up long flights to Australia and Asia, and his desire to help encourage Asian and Mid. East tennis. But given his desire to do good works in Asia and Africa it's time he took a less hands off role in these big issues, even though it's tricky while he has a pad in Dubai. Same for Rafa who is after all, #1. They should both stand up on the big issues. I really like Andy for speaking out.

Posted by carlbolt 02/25/2009 at 10:37 PM

No matter how many matches he win, he'll never win my respect, not a bit, because of his crapy manner on court, resentful to everybody when he was loosing, typical american player's behavior, totally brutal force but no smart play.

Posted by Valevapor 02/26/2009 at 01:15 AM

Nice article. Roddick has matured greatly over the years as both player and person. I think in some ways you can draw parallels between Roddick and Hewitt. Both were #1 players in the brief post-Sampras interlude, both ended up having any hope of further Grand Slam glory summarily squelched by Federer, and both started out as brats only to became thoughtful and engaging people. Likewise, they are both still excellent players plugging away, but Andy has now surpassed Lleyton in terms of effort, experimentation, and consistency. I like Steve's insight that, if you subtract Roddick's serve, you basically have a Gilbert-esque game, but Andy's version seems less strategically unsettling and more like damage mitigation.

Posted by Katrina 02/26/2009 at 03:10 AM

How PREDICTABLE, steve, the responses to your witty comment re: roddicks's crosscourt forehand making Federer appear the genius.

How predictable the comparison to the World Number 1 Rafael Nadal to the former # 1 Federer.

And tedious to read the same rant over time. The world has changed, the tennis order shifted when Federer breathed into the mike at SW 19 in 2007, "I'm lucky to win this one --- before Rafa starts taking them all."

And how wonderful to see Roddick the pitbull still slugging it out on the courts --- and winning --- no matter what the surroundings. Can't say the same for his peers, Safin and Hewitt.

Posted by Bethany 02/26/2009 at 04:50 AM

I think you need to give a little more credit to Hewitt in particular. He has been injured for the best part of 3yrs. It does take a toll on one. Safin suffered a knee injury almost immediately after his second slam win and it took so long to heal that it didn't give him any favours. In actual fact all Fed's main threats got injured - he didn't and consolidated.
That's life, that's tennis.

I'm still puzzled why tennis players wait so long to take surgery -I guess they are scared of the amount of time they would need to recover. But it would help them all if they opted for the surgery and then recovered and came back on tour. Look at Sharapova - she had surgery in the end anyway!

Posted by carlo086 02/26/2009 at 06:01 AM

yep most professional players will only have surgery as last resort... understandable considering the amount of time it'll take for recovery, missing out on the all important match play...

re: roddick... im a huge nadal fan but i actually enjoy watching andy's matches and root for him most of the time... doesnt have the most exciting style of play but can't fault his dedication!

Posted by Kenneth 02/26/2009 at 08:00 AM

I bow to Katrina's 3:10 A.M. post.

I remember some fantastic posts from both skip and slice regarding the way Roddick's serve really disadvantaged him position wise. I don't see much that's changed that, and that becomes a huge, huge subplot in Roddick's games when his opponent starts to read his serves. Perfect the forehand all you want, but that court positining after he hits a serve just leaves him open to damage. But how can you justify tinkering with the guy's major weapon?

I second all the kudos given to Andy for passing on Dubai and speaking up about it.

Posted by Overhyped 02/26/2009 at 09:12 AM

What is telling is that Andy Roddick has won no more career titles since 2004 than Nikolay Davydenko. No one talks about Nikolay winning a Grand Slam title so talk of Andy winning one should stop. Remember, Davydenko crushed Nadal in Miami last year. It didn't lead to much after that. Imagine the articles that would have followed if Andy had beaten Raffa in that match. Andy Roddick is Davydenko level player, he'll rarely lose to lower ranked opponents but doesn't have the game to beat the big guns in their prime.
Obviously, Roger and Raffa are the top two players in the game. Murray and Djokovic are legitimate threats to their supremacy. Andy and Davydenko are not in that league. Verdasco, Gasquet, Tsonga have more game than Roddick. Blake has more game than Roddick (James is sadly a head case as a tennis player). I attribute Roddick's success to sheer guts and determination, more so than Raffa's. Raffa has oodles of talent, Roddick doesn't.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 02/26/2009 at 09:27 AM

Thanks, Kenneth... ;-))

Yes, Andy's insistence on serving bombs (130mph and up) throughout an entire match does indeed hinder his positioning, as players like Federer are able to get a read and a bead on it, step forward and punch back a solid return at his feet or in a corner, well before Andy has gathered his feet under him, leaving him in very poor position to utilize his forehand weapon to the max.

Yet I still also think he lets too many forehands drop a foot too low, albeit in his comnfort zone, where he must come up behind the ball and loop it over. This is particularly a problem against Federer, who often plays the short punch or chip return wide, making Andy curve the ball instead of blas it. I recall the spanking Federer gave Andy at AO 2007, where he essentially toyed with him.

So there are certainly a couple of mechanical and tactical things that Andy could do to give him a better shot at another Slam, but he does have a pretty impressive Masters Series record and is still beating, despite my prediction that he wouldn't be doing so for much longer, players ranked below him on a very consistent basis.

Guts. Heart. Passion. Professionalism. He's got these in spades.

Posted by Black Matt 02/26/2009 at 09:45 AM

Overhyped -

That's ridiculous. Since 2004, Roddick has been to TWO grand slam finals (Wimbledon '05 and US Open '06.) He's been been to several semis, too. Davydenko has made one or two semifinals appearences here and there, but even though neither has won a Slam the Russian's track record is nowhere near as accomplished.

Fact is, yes, they both might have far less diverse and damaging games than the 4 men ranked above them, but the reason Roddick is still a contender (albeit a dark horse one) is because he has a top-3 weapon, and thus is extremely dangerous. No one really fears Davydenko.

As for Verdasco and Gasquet having more game? Please. They may be more talented but talent alone isn't enough. Gasquet is a headcase and will never accomplish anything. Verdasco has had ONE good result, and Roddick kicks his ass every time they play.

You can have all the talent you want. Won't do you any good unless you MAXIMIZE it. And THAT'S why Roddick is still a force to be reckoned with.

Posted by OffRdDream 02/26/2009 at 10:08 AM

To all the Roddick haters, I think you can analyze his game all you want but the true fact remains he has been in the top ten for longer than most people his age on the tour. And the fact still remains that he is playing on the pro tour and your not, must mean he is doing something right. GO ANDY!!!

Posted by Mike 02/26/2009 at 10:54 AM


roddick's top spin has been killing him, put it fewer little bit, which helps the ball last longer in the air and drop deeper! just a suggestion.

Posted by Agrish 02/26/2009 at 11:55 AM

He has to be a bit aggresive on his groundstrokes.I think that is why he lost to Federer at the AO.Federer was hitting hard with consistency whereas Roddick just tried to reach every ball and that is very tough todo against Federer. Anyways, he wants to win a slam or a two and he is ready to take risk.GO ANDY. BEST OF LUCK

Posted by Skip1515 02/26/2009 at 11:57 AM

How short the public's memory is.

Roddick's forehand gets criticism today, but when he first burst onto the scene it was a feared weapon. I remember my dad commenting that Roddick's fh was becoming more roll-y and less penetrating, but not for the first time I pooh poohed my pop. Silly me.

Posted by Timmy 02/26/2009 at 12:08 PM

Roddick has the fortune to have lots of tournaments in USA (Home) which is not the case for most players, That is the reason he's been a top 10 for many years, People get real!

Posted by alex 02/26/2009 at 01:04 PM

This article over him winning a crappy tournament in Memphis? He's overrated and comes across like a jerk. He has only won one major. He's no where close to Nadal, Murray, Federrer and others. Simply put, he might be improved but he still won't beat the top players.

Posted by Mary 02/26/2009 at 01:43 PM

Nice article & great to see Andy playing well.He's made the semi's at least of all his 4 events this year & his hard work with Stefanki is playing off.Andy is very consistent,never gives up & keeps trying to improve.I hope he has a great 2009 & gets that big win he so deserves.

Posted by zolarafa 02/26/2009 at 02:00 PM

Great article Steve.
It is an absolute joy to see a player trying to improve and reach his potential. It is a huge undertaking for Roddick to go through all he has been , just to get better and better , at a time when Rafa and Fed are miles ahead of everyone and the young guns are storming ahead.

To not be intimidated by the young guns and not throw the towel after god knows how many times being beaten by Federer, to take the training and fitness so seriously at 28 , when most just try to find an excuse to give up, is just amazing. From a non-Roddick fan, just Vamos! and all the best!

Posted by Sher 02/26/2009 at 02:32 PM

Steve, I finally had a chance to read this -- very good article, particularly the finishing paragraph.

In the news recently there was a tidbit that at #27, Roddick has the most ATP titles out of active players after Federer and Nadal. I'd say that's a very good accomplishment.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 02/26/2009 at 02:36 PM

I agree with Zolarafa, nice of Roddick to try to improve and also have a fighting spirit (examplified best in the Madrid DC semi against Rafa, last year), but, like all the American players, he's not a true tennis talent (as opposed to the better European schools of tennis). Clay (in general) players rule.

Posted by T 02/26/2009 at 02:59 PM

I only saw hilights of Roddick's matches. Definetly his returns are better, also it looked like his backhand has continued to change. Not only is he using his slice backhand, but his right arm does not seem to be so straight on his 2 handed backhand. I have long felt that his return and his painful to watch, senseless stiff armed 2-hander was too weak for grand slam championships after players got use to his serve.

Posted by PC 02/26/2009 at 03:37 PM

I remember watching a Davis cup match a couple of years ago where Roddick was puking his guts out in wastebasket between sets.

Can't remember if he won, but it was a gritty, determined athlete who was making no excuses.

Compare and contrast with, oh, the little backhand that quit?

Merci Andy!

Posted by Joe 02/26/2009 at 06:04 PM

Why Nadal beats Federer on hard, clay ande grass?? and not once, more and more. Very simple, because he is better player than Fede, it doesn't matter what Fede has or makes, Nadal is an incredible tennis player and great athlete

Posted by Joe 02/26/2009 at 06:15 PM

Katrina's post on pg2 sums up my thoughts better than I could say it.

Posted by Jow 02/26/2009 at 06:16 PM

haha weird. 2 joes posting back2back. we're not the same person, I think?

Posted by Joe 02/26/2009 at 06:30 PM

I don't think are "blue", haha

Posted by Joe 02/26/2009 at 06:32 PM

Sorry, I'm "the blue one"

Posted by KnSD 02/26/2009 at 06:48 PM


Thanks for a great article on Roddick. I have always been a fan of his. His determination is fantastic.

Just a few things here - Yes, when Andy came on the scene he was a serve and a forehand. I don't know what has happened to his forehand but it is nice to see the improvement in his backhand. And he has made 3 finals since his US Open win - losing all 3 times to Federer. In the first Wimbledon final, he had Federer beat but that rain delay killed him. Had he won that match, I think his career might have been a little different.

And Steve is taking nothing away from Federer in this article. He is simply pointing out, yet again, how their two games match up to Federer's advantage. He is basically saying that as remarkable a player as Federer is, and we all agree that he is, that Andy helps it out with his forehand putting the ball in Federer's wheelhouse to do with as he pleases. This is not a derogatory comment about Federer or his abilities.

And to whoever said that Andy only does well at American tournaments, I am just curious - when did England and Australia become part of America? His results at Stella Artois, Wimbledon and the Aussoe contirbute a lot to his ranking points. He doesn't play well on clay - is that now a hanging offense?

Posted by 02/26/2009 at 10:58 PM

Actually, Roddick quit on having high standards when the Federer hype of the media and Federer bandwagon jumpers started.
It was never Roddick's fault that his fat, arrogant mother Blanche gave him an
unfortunate heavy, unathletic body. He packed on the 20 pounds of fat and muscle, which made him sometimes vomit and get injured. He couldn't learn to bend his knees and bend side to side, stretch and run immediately on his toes (not on his heels).
His arms aren't long like Federer's. The overrated one is Federer,
whose genetics made things look like balletic genius, right?
Roddick's serve toss was too low with the hands sticking forward (making it easy for Federer, Murray, counter-punchers, etc. to smash back at his slow feet and cause him to be embarrassed to change the serve and volley and try angles and drop shots).

Roddick's heavy legs obviously destroyed the forehand and recovery from the low serve toss and bad shot placement.

He was forced to do exhausting Davis Cup practice with Agassi and Sampras all day, which caused a knee operation in 2000.

Pat McEnroe was too much of a coward to stop Roddick from
hurting himself.

BTW, Trolls such as Tracy Boring Austin,
John McEnroe and Agassi had the nerve to say that
Roddick should admit he'll never be great and should blame just Federer in Grand Slams. That's pure ignorance. Tennis isn't just
about thought and confidence. The physical balance is way more important. I don't see James Blake winning Grand Slams, no matter
what Pat McEnroe and Cliff Drysdale say!

Roddick made Federer look genius and unbeatable. Time to end that humiliation with
fewer off-court distractions and more physical hard work.
Nothing new about that fact.

Posted by pogiako 02/27/2009 at 04:38 AM

good for andy to be # 1 american tennis player for many years. i just hope he stops to be a brat on court.

Posted by jojo 02/27/2009 at 02:42 PM

Brad called Andy's game "surf and turf".......big serve, big forehand. But the forehand has lost its bigness......when he wasa 19 he smoked that thing.....opponents wold make mistakes by over hitting or over-steering returns, because they knew that the inside out monster was coming..his game then was a lot like Jim Courier's with a weaker backhand.
Andy's serves are hot, but not well-directed. Too many come back considering the speed he hits them with. Ivo Karlovic hits them big and paints the did Sampras and Ivanisevic.....Too many of Andy's first serve offerings are read and blocked back consistently by higher level performers. I can't understand how anyone thought Andy had a one dimensional game......he always served and volleyed well (since he was 21, anyway) He has developed one of the games best slice backhands, and he makes great defensive shots, especially that running slice forehand....he is clever when points break down.
It is amazing he has done as well as he has (the third best player over the last 6 years, way out in front of the 4th), considering he is not that quick....he is really the slowest of the all-time greats.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 02/27/2009 at 07:26 PM

Makes Roger Federer "look" like an athletic genius?

Just checking to make sure I read that correctly.

If anything Roddick's net play makes you appreciate the rest of his game even more.

Posted by fedal 02/28/2009 at 06:00 PM

with all due respect i am so disappointed with your analysis because you always find a chance to criticize federer. I dont think you know waht you talk about many times u tend to change ur opinion on players just like changing shirts. For goodness sake, Roger's problem with nadal is more psychological than anything else and i could be wrong but am not taking away anything from nadals will to win and his talent. But it is unfair to say that roddick made roger look like a genius i mean what kind of analysis is that? one day u praise Fed and then anotehr day bcse of a loss to nadal at australia u crtiticize him. I dont think u people are consistent with any analysis. If roger had beaten nadal u would be criticizing nadal and praising roger or maybe not since it is a hobby of columnists at tennis world to criticize fedrer when he falters but make excuses to other players.
Plz grow up

Posted by jann 03/01/2009 at 08:20 PM

Roger Federer does not 'look' like an athletic genius, he is one. And you can't teach an 'old dog new tricks'. All the prose in the world will not make Roddick's game any prettier. That he has won 27 titles with it is surprising, but then again he has always had more heart than game. But he is not underrated, rather more the opposite. There are many, many players who work equally hard.

Posted by kmmcgea 03/01/2009 at 09:12 PM

Your accurate description of Andy Roddick explains why I am a fan better than I could myself. Can somebody explain why it will be difficult to watch Indian Wells and Miami on TV again this year. FSN network has strange arrangements that are very spotty throughout the US ( and never in my area of Florida) Tennis Channel never seems to get the big matches live. I always have a frustrating time trying to pay for some lousy internet video stream coverage for many tournaments.

Posted by Well Left 03/02/2009 at 06:29 PM

Roddick made Philipp Kohlshcreiber look a *tennis genius* at the Australian Open in 2008.
Who can forget a ~110 winners to <50 UFE? Insane stat line.

Nice article as usual, steve, thanks.

Posted by sky 03/04/2009 at 10:27 AM

thank you corrie 4:15 post, how easily people forget the real Fed. he is a good guy, he was on top for such a long time, it appears some people just can't help trying to barrie him even further...(even if what they say about him has to be a lie) interesting point annabelle 5:18 post I whole heartedly agree with many: Roddick has a lot of heart (this is true about Roddick) Thanks jann for 8:20 PM post quote: "Roger Federer does not 'look' like an athletic genius, he is one." Ain't that's the truth. Comments on Roddick's abilities overfluous (in my opinion) Steve. Roddict as a "younger brother at heart" is right on! ("very perceptive"). I would like to thank so many of you for your comments, (great read/informative). Cheers

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