September 02, 2010
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Another U.S. Open, another foot-fault controversy involving a top American player.
Andy Roddick was a stunning loser in his second match at the U.S. Open on Wednesday night, falling in four sets to Janko Tipsarevic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (4). Late in the third set, the 2003 champion was called for a foot fault and the ruling set off bedlam at Arthur Ashe Stadium, with Roddick complaining to the lineswoman about the call for the better part of 15 minutes and refusing to move on from the incident well after it should have concluded. He ended up losing that set and then, eventually, the match in a fourth-set tiebreak.
Serving at 2-5 in the third set, Roddick hit an ace that was quickly called a foot fault. Roddick asked for an explanation and was told that his right foot stepped over the baseline before he made contact with his racket. Stunned at the call, Roddick mockingly called timeout and approached the chair umpire in disbelief that his back foot could have gone over the line.
[Photos: See images of Roddick's meltdown]
Roddick asked the veteran ump whether he had ever seen him foot fault with his right foot, and the umpire surprisingly agreed that he had not. Satisfied, Roddick turned back to the offending lineswoman. "I don't move my right foot, it's impossible," Roddick he said. "I've never done that in my entire career." The lineswoman (right) sat listening, unimpressed and without emotion.
They were both correct, but both wrong. Roddick did foot fault, but it was with his left foot, not his right. The lineswoman had the call right, but the explanation wrong. (Because she was sitting behind Roddick, maybe she meant it was to her right, sort of like a "stage right" call in theater.) As Roddick demonstrated later after losing that set, it would have been impossible for him to have gone over the line with his back foot. It just doesn't work. If you're a righty, stand up and hit a fake serve right now and see what I mean. Your right foot is always trailing. If your right foot foot faults, so does your left. (Reverse this if you're a lefty.)
But that's just semantics. Right, left, whatever. The foot fault itself was legit. It happened, just not in the way the lineswoman said. The left foot of Roddick went over the line and the call was appropriate and legitimate, unlike the call against Serena Williams last year, and, yes, it didn't take long to make the connection to Serena once Roddick began his outburst. Here we were: Watching the top American player struggling at Arthur Ashe Stadium and being called for a questionable foot fault late in a match. In the words of a famous New Yorker, it was deja vu all over again.
Roddick didn't berate the lineswoman like Serena, nor did he curse and threaten her. But his actions were immature. He kept complaining throughout the set and during the break, even mimicking to the lineswoman how his right foot couldn't have faulted by performing an awkward little dance as a demonstration. He wouldn't let up. Point after point would end and there was Roddick, still muttering under his breath or to his coaches or to the chair umpire about how ridiculous it was that his right foot went over the line. Roddick probably deserved a warning for his antics, but the chair umpire instead decided to relieve the lineswoman of her duties. It ended up being a fine decision that restored order in the match.
[Related: Is this the end of Andy Roddick?]
The post-mortems will say that Roddick lost the match because of his outburst. But he didn't lose the match because of the foot fault. He lost because he was too reliant on his backhand, too slow with his footwork and because he was outplayed by the better tennis player. Foot fault or not, Roddick wasn't winning. As his recent results show, he's just not that good right now. The tantrum wasn't just an outlet against the lineswoman; it was against everything related to tennis. Andy Roddick is frustrated that he can't play up to the level he wants. He's frustrated that he may have just blown his last chance to contend in a Grand Slam. And he took it all out on a lineswoman who made the right call but had the misfortune of describing it incorrectly.
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