March 17, 2011
Andy Roddick is 28 going on 8.
On Wednesday night at Indian Wells, the top-ranked American threw one of his now-famous temper tantrums, complaining to various linespeople, childishly bouncing the ball countless times before his serve, throwing his racquet and petulantly giving the chair umpire a warning after he was given one for racquet abuse. Roddick began all of this after it was clear that his opponent, Richard Gasquet, was in control of the match.
The problems began in the first set, when Roddick felt that chair umpire Fergus Murphy missed some crucial calls during a Gasquet break of serve. The American played the passive-aggressive card with Murphy, but eventually resumed play without incident, other than to take an occasional jab at a line judge.
In the second set, Roddick threw his racquet in disgust after Gasquet broke again, this time to go up 3-1. Murphy issued Roddick a warning, which caused the American to lose his cool and immediately shoot back, "I give you a warning."
When later asked why he gave the chair umpire a warning, Roddick responded:
"Because he gave me a warning. I feel like with the mistakes he made, it's only fair that I would give him a warning as well.
"I only made one mistake. I only broke one racket. He missed a couple of calls, so I feel like it was a little presumptuous of him to give me a warning off one broken racket."
Roddick broke back and forced a second set tiebreak. When Gasquet hit one of his patented backhand, cross-court winners, Roddick had another outburst:
The act is tired and needs to stop. Throwing racquets is bad enough, but taking frustrations out on officials who aren't allowed to talk back is a bully tactic.
There's an occasional circumstance that warrants yelling at a chair umpire. Some players use that to help elevate their games. Roddick doesn't. Every time he pulls something like this, it's when his game is in the toilet. It rarely recovers after he starts with the antics.
John McEnroe threw tantrums, too. The difference between him and Roddick is that Mac could properly channel that anger and frustration into playing better tennis. You didn't automatically write off Johnny Mac when he blew up because you knew he could turn it around after getting mad.
Roddick is the opposite. Once he starts sniping at officials, you might as well write his opponent's name down on the next line of the bracket. In the past few months alone he's done this a number of times (against Gilles Simon in D.C., Janko Tipsarevic at the U.S. Open and on Wednesday night) and has lost each match.
Get it together, Andy. You're one of the elder statesman of the game now. Start acting like it.