- Greg Garber, Writer, Reporter
- 0 Shares
WIMBLEDON, England -- It wasn't the best approach shot, but Andy Roddick already had committed himself.
He took several tentative steps, out of the sunlight and into the shade on Centre Court, and tried to track down David Ferrer's low backhand screamer. Roddick was, as we have seen in recent years, a half-step slow, and the volley winner he had imagined bounced several times and trickled into the net.
"Ahh," Roddick exhaled, with a plaintive tone that made you really feel for him.
He congratulated Ferrer -- a 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-3 winner -- at net and waited patiently for him to strap on an expensive watch and collect his things. And then, Roddick did a curious thing. The applause in these cases is usually reserved for the winner, but the 29-year-old American appeared to think otherwise.
Walking slightly behind Ferrer, Roddick slowed and turned and waved to the cheering crowd. Roddick has left a part of himself out there on Centre Court, something the crowd knew and appreciated. He did two graceful 360-degree turns, blew a kiss, then put his head down and walked out.
For the final time at The Championships?
Afterward, Roddick was asked if he had made any final retirement decisions.
"No," he said, his head down, eyes hidden by the brim of his hat. "No."
Later, he added: "I don't have an answer for you, so I'm not going to give you much else. If I don't have a definitive answer in my own mind, it's going to be tough to articulate that answer to you."
Roddick made the final here on three occasions, losing to Roger Federer each time. His 16-14 loss three years ago was gut-wrenching to behold. He has conversations every day around Wimbledon Village with people he doesn't even know.
"It's almost as if I've been accepted here," he said.
Roddick has several standards of longevity and sustained excellence, but one of them is now in jeopardy. In each of the past 11 seasons, he has reached the quarterfinals of at least one Grand Slam. So far, he has yet to advance past the third round.
Maybe that would explain the kiss.
Baker perfect at Wimbledon
OK, this is starting to get way beyond ridiculous.
On Saturday, Brian Baker, a 27-year-old from Nashville, defeated Benoit Paire 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 in the third round. This means that the guy who was out of tennis for nearly six years -- who hadn't stepped on a grass court in seven years -- is a match away from the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
Baker, including three qualifying wins, is now 6-0 for his career here at the All England Club, which encompasses less than two weeks.
He never looked particularly nervous, but admitted he was feeling it in the fourth set.
"I missed a few shots at the end that I probably wouldn't miss if it was the quarters of a challenger and not trying to get to the round of 16 at Wimbledon," Baker said. "It is crazy kind of what's going on. But I'm still trying to stay focused on the task at hand and not get too wrapped around.
"Because once you do that, I think it's tough to be able to play your best tennis once you're happy that you've been there. So I'm trying to every match go in there hungry and try to win the next one instead of [thinking], 'I'm in the round of 16 of Wimbledon, this is awesome.' "
But of course, it is -- awesome, that is.
Two months ago, Baker's main claim to fame was an appearance in the final of the 2003 junior event at Roland Garros. He had had a rough time of it in the intervening years, suffering five major injuries that required serious surgery, most notably a Tommy John-style reconstruction of his right elbow. But he persevered and rebuilt his body and his game.
Baker won a Challenger in Savannah, Ga., which secured the USTA's wild card into the French Open. Playing an ATP World Tour warm-up in Nice, France, Baker qualified and beat former top-10 players Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko on the way to the final. After winning a match at Roland Garros, he lost two in a row, the second on the grass at Queen's Club.
He was hoping for a wild card, but in retrospect, perhaps being forced to qualify better-prepared him for this.
"Yeah," Baker said, smiling. "Looking at it now, it's a good thing.
"I wasn't that disappointed that I didn't get [a wild card]. I needed the match practice on the courts. My only grass-court match was at Queen's qualies and I lost. Didn't feel I was comfortable on the stuff."
Fish fillets Belgian
Two days ago, Mardy Fish looked spent after playing a 4-hour, 13-minute match in the second round. In the wake of a heart procedure last month, his practice and conditioning has been understandably limited.
Yet, somehow, the 30-year-old American finds himself into the second week here at Wimbledon. He beat David Goffin 6-3, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6).
"I played much better today than I did in the past two matches, for sure," Fish said. "This was the best player that I played so far. I had to do that if I wanted to advance."
He'll have to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round Monday if he wants to match his career best here, a quarterfinals effort a year ago.
One and done
On Saturday, the defending Wimbledon champion gave her only one.
"The score looks easy," Kvitova said, "but some rallies were good, yeah."
Lepchenko, who reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, went a terrific 5-2 in the Euro Slams.
Kvitova, who has struggled at times this season, did not have an ideal grass tune-up. Two weeks ago, she lost her first-round match in Eastbourne.
"I didn't think that I can like really in short time to get ready to have a good game on the grass," she said. "But, yeah, every round when I played it's better, so I hope that I find myself already."