Andy Roddick's 32nd Career Title: 5 Takeaways from BB&T Atlanta Open 2012
"Hotlanta" lived up to its name this past week at the 2012 BB&T Atlanta Open. Sticky, humid weather and a barrage of T-Storms and rain delays challenged the field of mostly home-grown American players.
The lead story line, of course, was Andy Roddick winning his 32nd career title over Gilles Muller of Luxembourg at the same site where he won his first title 11 years ago. In his acceptance speech, Roddick quipped that he hoped these wouldn't be "bookend" titles on his resume.
Other compelling storylines from Atlanta include the first-ever matchup between two Japanese players in an ATP Quarterfinal (Go Soeda vs. Kei Nishikori) and a first glimpse at a possible rising American star, Jack Sock.
Here are five things to take away from the tournament...
Andy Roddick Still Has Serious Fire in His Belly
Andy Roddick displayed tremendous tenacity and competitiveness in his come-from-behind victory over Gilles Muller.
Muller appeared to have Roddick on the ropes after drubbing him 6-1 in the first set and gliding through his first few service games in the second while Roddick toiled to hold serve with an ailing right shoulder.
Roddick was clearly not at his best, and Muller was playing superb, offensive tennis.
Roddick showed real grit in fighting to hang on for a second-set tiebreaker, which was just enough to give Muller the spooks. A double fault and a couple of Muller errors allowed Roddick to seize control of the match and impose his will.
At age 29, in the twilight of his career, Roddick could have set the cruise control, but it is clear that he wants titles just as badly as ever and is still a threat on any fast surface.
Roddick's Sore Shoulder Cause for Concern
For nearly a set-and-a-half in his Finals match against Muller, Andy Roddick clutched repeatedly at his right shoulder and delivered first serves about 20 mph off his usual pace.
After calling for the trainer at the end of the first set, his shoulder seemed to loosen up, but the serve never seemed quite right.
Roddick called it a tweak and said he'd take three days off to rest the shoulder, but for a guy who never had a shoulder problem in the first decade of his professional career, Roddick must be concerned after having to pull out of the French Open a year ago with shoulder pain.
Roddick generates a tremendous amount of torque in his serving motion, which is tough on any arm.
As an older player, Roddick will surely have to be cautious with this injury if he wants to be healthy for the US Open. Unfortunately, with the Olympics a week away, he'll have little time to rest.
Luxembourg May Still Be Waiting Quite a While for Its First Title
Gilles Muller is the most successful player in the history of Luxembourg.
Alas, this success has never translated into a title on the ATP tour.
Entering his matchup against Roddick on Sunday, Muller had appeared in only two Finals in his career, losing both.
For a while, it seemed that it was finally Muller's day. Muller played his very best tennis for nearly two sets and brought a calm, aggressive game plan that caught Roddick off-guard.
Muller hit all of his spots on his serve and held easily for the first several games. His volleys were crisp, and he had an answer for everything Roddick gave him.
After crushing Roddick 6-1 in the first set, Muller had some real chances to break Roddick at 4-4 and 5-5 and serve for the match, but he just couldn't convert. At 6-6, Muller looked like a totally different player from the first set, and he played very tight when it mattered most.
Muller said after the match that when he got close to the finish line, "he started to think he could win and got nervous." The ability to close is what separates champions from also-rans.
This may have been Muller's greatest chance to win a title. He was very lucky to get through the second round after being down a set and a break to American Mardy Fish, who eventually had to retire with an ankle injury.
Then, on Sunday, Muller was fortunate to be playing an injured and exhausted Roddick who had just finished a marathon two-hour 28-minute three-setter against John Isner.
The circumstances could not have been more charmed for Muller, and still he failed to reach the end zone.
It may be a while for Luxembourg.
Brad Gilbert Back on Top of the Name Game
Ever since he turned to commentating, Brad Gilbert has established himself as the King of Nicknames in tennis.
The originator of gems such as "Fed" (Roger Federer), "A-Rod" (Andy Roddick), "Delpo" (Juan Martin del Potro) and others, Gilbert seems to have disdain for the name on one's birth certificate.
Recently, I felt that Gilbert might have lost his touch a little. "FedEx" (Roger Federer No. 2), on display at Wimbledon, seemed a little contrived.
Then this week in Atlanta, Gilbert delivered one of his greatest monikers yet, referring to Gilles Muller as "Ferris Muller" in Tweets. I don't know why, but I think this is hilarious. Bravo, Brad.
John Isner: Massive Serve and Little Else at the BB&T
John Isner is a tremendous talent.
To move the way he does at 6'10" is astounding.
His serve is probably in the top five of all-time, which is why he broke into the Top 10 in the ATP World rankings.
But Isner still hasn't developed a consistent baseline game, and he struggled throughout the Atlanta Open, spraying a staggering number of unforced errors.
In his semifinal against 19-year-old American newcomer Jack Sock, Isner eked out a first set tiebreak in large part thanks to back-to-back Sock double-faults.
In Isner's defense, he was up 4-1 when the rain started to coming down, and after the delay he understandably came out flat.
Still, the No. 11 player in the world playing on his home turf against a rookie shouldn't struggle like that.
It's perplexing that, as gifted as Isner is at the net, he doesn't mix in more serve-and-volley.