Andy Roddick was unraveling long before he smashed a ball in frustration to the top of the stands during his first-round match at the Western and Southern Open on Monday night. The former world No. 1 had blown a set and a break lead to Philipp Kohlschreiber and had just double faulted to give the German a chance to go up a break in the deciding set. That's when he whacked at a ball in anger and sent it sailing high into the Cincinnati night.
"Thirty-40; violation: abuse; point penalty, Roddick; game, Kohlschreiber."
Instead of serving at 30-40, Roddick was issued a point penalty for his actions and would lose the game without playing another point. He went down 0-5 in the set and eventually lost to Kohlschreiber 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1.
Roddick knew the point penalty was the right call. His argument is the picture of half-heartedness. He complains more out of obligation than desire. When you break your racquet during the second set (like he did on Monday night), you don't get the benefit of the doubt when you smash a ball in anger at fans, no matter what the original intent. (Roddick tells umpire Carlos Bernardes that he should watch the ball land next time before issuing a violation. Roddick himself didn't watch the ball land either.)
The early loss continues Roddick's lost summer. In the rankings released next week, he'll be outside the top 20 for the first time since Aug. 19, 2001. He's won just five of his last 14 matches overall, including the last four straight. Since losing an epic five-set Wimbledon final to Roger Federer in 2009, Roddick has advanced to the quarterfinals of a Slam only once. Four times he's gone out in the third round or earlier.
Roddick turns 29 on the second day of the U.S. Open. Given his age, he's reached the point where making the assumption that he'll turn it around is more hopeful than anything. So much has been made of Federer turning 30 and how his game will suffer as a result of reaching the artificial milestone. But Federer's aging has been a gradual process, much more graceful than the beginning of the ends of other stars' careers. His game has slipped, not fallen apart like so many others.
Federer is the exception. For now, Roddick is proving to be the rule.
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