Can Roddick atone for summer slump?
August, 24, 2010
By Ravi Ubha, ESPN.com | ESPN.com
Editor's note: Beginning Aug. 16, Ravi Ubha is unveiling the top 10 U.S. Open questions. Check back each weekday until Aug. 27 as we count down to No. 1.
3. How's A-Rod looking?
Andy Roddick has had it good in his career when it comes to health. Well, until 2010.
A shoulder injury affected Roddick in a five-set loss to Marin Cilic -- the now-fading Marin Cilic -- at the Australian Open, and the onset of mono hampered the long-standing U.S. top player at the French Open and Wimbledon. Out went the good work from Indian Wells and Miami.
It's not as if Roddick would have won in Paris or even reached the quarterfinals, but there had to be an ulterior explanation for his unexpected defeat to Yen-Hsun Lu, inspired as he was, in the fourth round at Wimbledon.
Roddick was diagnosed with mono in only mid-August, and he skipped the Rogers Cup in Toronto before being given the all clear to return at the Cincinnati Masters this past week. He didn't know what to expect.
Things couldn't have gone much better.
Roddick downed tricky Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, edged promising Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker in a typical early-round Roddick match (one break), battled past world No. 5 Robin Soderling and overcame, yet again, No. 3 Novak Djokovic.
In terms of competitiveness, Roddick was back to his best against Soderling in a three-set slugfest on Thursday. Up a set and break, serving with aplomb, a lapse allowed the Swede to force a tiebreaker. Roddick missed a match point. He then squandered numerous opportunities to put Soderling away before a deciding tiebreaker.
But Roddick hung in there mentally -- and physically. The marathon affair lasted nearly three hours. (For all his good qualities, such as not making excuses, Roddick didn't do himself any favors by berating chair umpire Mohamed el-Jennati in the tussle with Soderling.)
The next day, Roddick dispatched Djokovic in straight sets. Djokovic was indeed playing poorly, although Roddick's body didn't let him down following a quick turnaround.
Roddick's confidence must be back, even though he blew a lead to good buddy Mardy Fish in the semifinals. Re-entering the top 10 in the rankings can't hurt, and unlike in 2009, Roddick enters Flushing Meadows with little pressure.
Roddick needs an especially good draw early to have any chance of claiming a second major and his first since the U.S. Open in 2003. In the aftermath of his illness, he can't afford to go four or five sets twice in the opening week. It'll catch up with him.
Just one solid tournament heading into the U.S. Open might not be the best preparation, but the outlook was far worse two weeks ago.