Grumpy Andy Roddick is back, and some sweet game has accompanied the surly attitude.
It has been five years since Roddick was still alive on the second Friday of the U.S. Open, but his Flushing Meadows progress has not been enough to lighten his mood.
Roddick came into the event with lower expectations upon him than at any time in recent memory, having slumped to No. 21 in the rankings following a year of patchy form that prompted speculation that his best days were behind him.
He has responded by surging through the quarterfinals, where he will meet No. 2 Rafael Nadal on Friday. And his run has been punctuated by controversies and angry outbursts. Maybe there's a connection.
Earlier in his career, Roddick, 29, got involved in regular spats with officials and vehemently voiced his displeasure at unfavorable line calls. That side of his nature largely disappeared absent in recent years, but it has returned with a vengeance the past two weeks.
Roddick began his U.S. Open campaign by launching into a rather odd rant aimed at John McEnroe, lashing out at the former superstar’s on-air comments from the broadcasting booth. He then let rip about his displeasure with certain aspects of how the ATP markets itself, even insisting the tour should take hints from WWE wrestling in its promotional approach.
Roddick marched into the quarters by beating Spain’s David Ferrer in four sets Thursday, a contest that was moved to Court 13 due to problems with draining water from the surface on Louis Armstrong. Yet it was that clash with Ferrer, delayed two days because of the inclement weather in the New York region, which truly sparked Roddick’s ire.
On Wednesday, accompanied by Nadal and Andy Murray, Roddick stormed into the office of tournament referee Brian Earley in protest at being forced to begin play on courts which the players felt were not properly dried and treacherous.
Those events fired up gotten Roddick – as well making him itching to get on court – once the skies cleared early Thursday. But that is when things really got ugly.
Moisture bubbles began to appear on the surface after Roddick and Ferrer resumed on Louis Armstrong, including one in a troublesome spot just behind the baseline. Roddick was seething, and Earley was in the firing line.
“Can you tell me why you brought us out here?” barked Roddick. “I am baffled, absolutely baffled.”
The only viable solution was to move the match to Court 13, one of the smaller courts at the U.S. National Tennis Center, with room for only 584 spectators. Roddick prevailed 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 thanks to a combination of fierce serving and surprisingly consistent ground strokes, to move past the No.5 seed.
He still wasn’t finished venting though, using his post-match media conference to exhort his fellow players to set up a formal union to protect their interests at major events.
“We are the only major sport without representation of the players,” said Roddick. “I think it is a fairly obvious need. As far as yesterday, we were in the locker room and decided it was better to go in together. We all felt the same way.
“A lot has been going on. What are you going to do? Today was weird. A bubble of water was coming up through the court. I try to roll with the punches. Court 13 was like an intimate rock show, but I didn’t want to wait, I just wanted us to go play somewhere.”
So why exactly is Roddick becoming a grumpy old man? His outbursts have been the source of amusement with contributors on tennis internet forums questioning how a man with such a stunning wife – he is married to supermodel Brooklyn Decker – could have so much to be angry about.
Yet Roddick knows time is running out on him. He admits he is no longer at his prime and few give him any real hope of adding to his one Grand Slam title, captured in New York in 2003. He is not even the top American any more, having been usurped by Mardy Fish in the rankings, and with John Isner just behind him.
This opportunity, however slim, might be his last realistic shot at going all the way. Nadal though, holds a 6-3 career record against him and may have just as many fans in the New York crowd as the American.
If Roddick is going to keep his run going he might need to play the match of his life – and to keep tapping into that reservoir of anger.
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