Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dumb Americans Part II

"Shut up!"

--Andy Roddick to German fans.

"Do you need to be a second-grade dropout to be an umpire? Stay in school kids or else you'll end up an umpire!"

"You're an idiot."

"You need to do your job! Do you have ears connected to your head? You can't hear him yelling?"

--Roddick to chair umpire.

I've always been an Andy Roddick fan. I've defended him for years because honestly I never thought he did anything wrong - other than show terrible court sense and poor judgment in selecting coaches. But after his five-set loss to German Philip Kohlschreiber, it's clear he's taken on too much of Coach Jimmy Connors's persona. This is a shame, because Roddick has always been a fan favorite Down Under. It's sad to see him booed off the court.

Roddick was unhinged and boorish in berating the fans and the umpire. In fact he should have been docked a point for his continual tirades against the chair. I'm no prude; there are times a little rant at the officiating is fine. This was totally uncalled for. I've seen Roddick angry many times, but he's never resembled Connors and his fuck-you-everyone attitude. Until Friday.

Five years ago David and I diagnosed Roddick has having mental meltdowns that came in the form of little fits of anger, and we talked (from our armchairs in the living room) about how those meltdowns broke his concentration. Unfortunately the pattern has held. When things get tight in a match, Roddick blows off steam at the umpire and then he loses focus. I suggest a sports psychologist or a new coach to work through these things, because Andy isn't really mad at the officiating. That's the difference between him and McEnroe. McEnroe believed in his heart he was getting screwed. I just don't think Andy thinks that way. It's more inappropriate stress relief and poor stress management. 

Kolschreiber played brilliantly: 104 winners v. 33 errors. Kolscrheiber is not known for his serve yet he hit 32 against Roddick.Can you imagine posting numbers like that? If I was in Andy's shoes, I'd be frustrated too. But we've seen other guys do this to Roddick: put up huge numbers of winners and aces. It's not just running into players having a great day; it's Roddick allowing it to happen. Connors has done a decent enough job of putting Roddick's game back together after a few terrible years. And Andy has given something back to Jimmy too. He's given Jimmy a way back into the game, and a way to pass on what he learned from his mother Glorida (who passed away just before the 07 Aussie Open). 

The second big Connors problem is that Andy is starting to play like Jimmy. You are definitely asking me "what could be wrong with playing like Connors? The man won seven grand slam titles."

The answer is, "plenty."

Andy is twice as big as Connors. He's always had a tremendous amount of hustle, just like old Jimbo. But his game is not about that. There are other counterpunchers and pushers out there who are better at it than Roddick. His is a power game. Big serve, big forehand. He ought to be the aggressor in these matches, not the guy reacting to the other player. This is a flaw that has been in Roddick's game since the juniors, when he was a little guy running around like Michael Chang. When Roddick grew two feet he didn't learn how to effectively harness his power. 

Brad Gilbert got him to No. 1 by teaching him how to control matches. I'm not suggesting that Roddick would be No. 1 or even No. 2 if he was still being coached by Gilbert. The game changed and he and Hewitt got stuck in the middle of that shift. But surely he should be winning and losing by playing the kind of game that suits his abilities. I can't watch any more matches where Andy flails away from BEHIND the baseline. Please get a clue, man.

We noticed Roddick getting tight during the 4th and 5th sets. He was playing great, but he didn't go for broke. That has to change if he has any hope of remaining in the top 10. That sounds like a drastic statement. However, the other younger players are maturing quickly. Roddick certainly has the skills to stay where he is. The question is, will he?

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