Everyone likes to say that Andy Roddick was unfortunate to play in an era with the likes of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Without them, they say, Roddick could be the holder of multiple Slams. Maybe.
Maybe he should have been anyway. Let's be realistic: Had Roddick been working to vary his game in the days of Tarik Benhabiles, he could have already been able to throw in a U.S. Open, maybe an Australian, definitely a Wimbledon.
It took him a while to get on the bus, and get to work on his game, but he did it. And because he chose to get to work at this stage in his career, and chose not to be just another top 10 or 20 for the rest of his career, he deserves a reward.
Yesterday, he played well enough to get it, but still came up short. He finally played the kind of tennis in this tournament that everyone thought he could have been playing his whole career. What does he get for it?
Well, that's the interesting part. Roddick gets possibly the most painful loss of his career, but he also gets -- the most motivational loss of his career. Every champion -- Rod Laver, John MacEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer -- have had that loss that's just like a kick in the stomach. For all of those men, that loss propelled them to never feel that way again. It brings the champion out of them. (And don't tell me Federer wasn't thinking of a specific Wimbledon loss in the late stages of Sunday's final.) If there's still a major to be had for Roddick, this loss is the thing that brings it out of him. Losing that match could be the best thing for Roddick's career -- especially if he goes back to the practice courts determined to learn how to volley. Really, now, with a serve like Roddick's, how do you not follow that to net and win matches in about 35-40 minutes?? Anyway, losing Wimbledon the way he did might leave a mark now, but it'll put some (more) hair on his chest.
As for Federer, well, look. Sampras didn't show up to Wimbledon at the last minute to see Andy Roddick. Sampras knew he'd win, and for good reason. As long as Rafa Nadal's not on the other side, Federer's got that bad boy done. Federer's come a long way, hasn't he, from the man who was practically weeping on Nadal's shoulder in January. Now, he's back on top of the tennis world, is the best player ever if you use Grand Slams to gauge that sort of thing AND now is the holder of two majors this year. And most importantly, Federer has finally won a major without collapsing on the ground in tears.
In other Wimby news, Serena Williams is racking up the majors, isn't she? Must be nice to play an opponent who walks up to the net at the beginning of the second set with a covered dish in hand, gestures at you to move closer, then removes the lid to just gives you the match on a silver platter. Brilliant. So glad I got up early to watch Venus Williams implode when it counted, especially after playing such a nice tournament.
Sigh. I don't know what I expected from the women.