Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Success beyond the Slams for Roddick
By Sandra Harwitt, ESPN.com
SANTIAGO, Chile -- Stop picking on Andy Roddick.
If there was a secondary message that came from this weekend's winning U.S. Davis Cup junket in Santiago, Chile, that would be it.
The first message: The Americans are determined to win the Davis Cup title this year. They left Chile cautiously optimistic that home turf in July's quarterfinal round can help them bypass what's apt to be a powerhouse Spanish team led by none other than Rafael Nadal.
American tennis fans have been largely spoiled during the Open era, always expecting to have Grand Slam champions in their midst. There was Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier.
As it has come to pass, that wealth of major titles has not continued in the Roddick era. But we should not be blaming Roddick, who has at least delivered one major -- the 2003 U.S. Open -- to the list.
He has also reached four other Grand Slam finals: Wimbledon 2004, '05, '09 and U.S. Open 2006. He lost all four to Roger Federer, arguably the best player to play the game. There is hardly anyone who wouldn't agree that if there wasn't a Federer, there'd be Wimbledon finery on Roddick's trophy shelf.
If Roddick was a party animal who squandered away his talent on too much fun and games, he'd deserve criticism. But he's a guy with an unwavering work ethic -- no insider would ever accuse him of giving less than 100 percent.
If Roddick pundits look beyond his lack of a bevy of Grand Slam titles, they'd actually find his résumé to be imposing.
It's rare to find a player who ended the year ranked in the top 10 for nine consecutive seasons, but Roddick has done so since 2002.
Nevertheless, when he fell out of the No. 10 ranking for four separate weeks between August and October of last year, he was chided. It marked the first time since the inception of the ATP rankings, which started in 1973, that an American was not residing in the top 10, and someone had to take responsibility.
"I thought it was pretty rude last year when he was given a hard time when he fell out of the top 10 for the first time, that we didn't have an American in there," new U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier said. "He's the guy who saved that record for so long. No one talks about that. Andy's always had the respect of the guys in the locker room, which is the respect that counts, and he's been pretty shortchanged pretty much everywhere else."
Roddick is one of eight American men who have captured at least 30 career titles. He picked up his 30th at the Memphis tournament last month, an amazing feat considering he had the flu while playing the final.
Among active players, only Roddick and Federer have won at least one title for the past 11 years.
He led the U.S. to the Davis Cup title in 2007, which was the first Davis Cup victory for the United States since 1995. Roddick boasts a perfect 12-0 record when given the chance to clinch a Davis Cup tie for the United States.
"It is a gaudy record and just another thing that Andy probably doesn't get enough credit for in his career because of other things people talk about negatively," Courier said. "There's a lot of great things that Andy has achieved and that's [the 12-0 record] right there; that's pressure. He's the No. 1 guy and he gets it done, and it's always against the No. 1 guy from the other team."
After this past weekend, Roddick has a 33-11 record in Davis Cup play, which places him fifth among all Americans who have played Davis Cup. He played in 23 of 24 ties played between 2001 and 2009.
"There's been some good [marks] in my career," Roddick said in Santiago. "Being in the top 10 for around a decade is a good one. Coming up on 600 match wins is a good one. I think those are things that I'm proud of just because, contrary to popular opinion, I've played at a very high level for a very long time."
With the Davis Cup first round over, Roddick now heads off to play back-to-back ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Indian Wells starts later this week.
Indian Wells has not been as friendly to Roddick as he would like, especially considering the extra oomph the high altitude should give to his supersonic serve. Until last year, when he lost to Ivan Ljubicic in the final, his best results in the desert were two semifinal appearances.
He heads into Miami as the defending champion, having beaten Thomas Berdych in last year's final. Roddick owns a pair of Miami titles, having also won the tournament in 2004.
As Roddick heads off to compete in tennis' version of March Madness, here's a suggestion to consider: Instead of seeing the glass as half empty and maligning Roddick for what he hasn't done, why not look at the glass as half full and admire the 28-year-old for what he has achieved.