August 06, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When he walked onto the court late Thursday night at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, Andy Roddick looked like he wanted to be doing anything but playing a tennis match.
If that was the case, 69 minutes later, he got his wish.
The top-ranked American player was quickly dispatched in straight sets by Frenchman Gilles Simon in a second-round match at the ATP 500 event in Washington, D.C. It was another disappointing loss for Roddick, who will drop out of the top 10 in the rankings next week for the first time in four years. Since winning in Miami in March, Roddick is 9-5 and hasn't defeated a player in the top 35. More alarming, each of those five losses has come to players ranked outside the top 30.
Later this month, the Texan will turn 28. His advancing age and poor start to the summer hard-court season has him dodging talk of the "r" word, a sobering thought for a player who still seems like he's the brash, backward-cap wearing youngster who won the U.S. Open in 2003. It was only 13 months ago that Roddick was two points from winning Wimbledon. Now he sounds lost.
"I didn't feel right physically," he said. "I didn't feel right mentally. It was a pretty bad effort."
He played even worse than the 6-3, 6-3 score indicates. Simon broke him in the first service games of both sets and was never in danger of losing his serve, winning 91 percent of his first-serve points. Conversely, Roddick's first serves were erratic, his footwork seemed lethargic and he failed to take advantage of Simon serving up meaty 88 mph second serves. It was a failure of strategy as well as execution.
Roddick's frustration was evident from the outset. He snapped at a chair umpire for making a correct call on a let ("I'm looking for an answer, not a smirk," he said to the ump after he treated Roddick's question as sarcasm) and smashed a ball in frustration into the upper deck at Stadium Court. That's Roddick's style, of course, yet those outbursts had a tinge of desperation to them.
Maybe it was the late start. Violent thunderstorms and a three-set match beforehand delayed the start of Roddick-Simon until 10:50 p.m. Perhaps Roddick is saving himself for the U.S. Open (those 27-year-old legs can't be as fresh as they once were.) More likely though, Roddick is in the midst of a tennis mid-life crisis.
He still has the talent to win Grand Slams and be a top-5 player, but in order to do so, he has to put himself in situations to win big matches in the semifinals and finals of 500s, 1000s and Slams. Right now, Roddick can't get to that point because he's losing to guys like Gilles Simon and Yen-Hsun Lu. In the past, he could sleepwalk through those matches and emerge victorious. The 27-year-old Roddick can't do that. He's aging and evolving, his game is not.