Andy Roddick: An 8-Slam Winner Without Federer?
Andy Roddick's retirement (via espn.com) announcement during the 2012 U.S. Open tennis event sent pundits scrambling to define his legacy and decide if the future Hall of Famer underachieved or was lucky to snag one Grand Slam title before Roger Federer started gracefully gobbling up every tournament in sight.
Well, Roddick was certainly somewhat fortunate to win his one Grand Slam trophy considering he was down a match point in the 2003 U.S. Open semifinal against David Nalbandian.
But he also technically "underachieved"—if we go by the dictionary.com definition of "achieving less than expected, especially by others."
I recall Patrick McEnroe predicting 6-10 Slam titles for Roddick and that range sounded perfectly reasonable to me.
No one on the planet in 2002 could have known that Federer would morph from talented head case into the most uncannily consistent tennis player of the Open Era.
Let's have a look at the seven Grand Slam titles that Roddick, whose career ended Wednesday with a loss to Juan Martin del Potro, may very well have won if FedEx had decided to become an actuary or something else instead.
Roddick was overwhelmed by Federer's all-court genius, but I think he would've claimed the title if he had played Mark Philippoussis, who was known to get tight in big matches.
This was the match in which Roddick brought the "kitchen sink," especially in the opening set, trying to fluster the artistic Federer with brute strength.
It worked for a while, but Federer's class and array of weapons (as Roddick famously described it: he "went to the bathroom and got his tub") eventually prevailed. No one else in the tournament could've handled Roddick's power, though.
This was the match that showed just how wide the gap was between Roddick and Federer and I believe put a major dent in the American's confidence.
But despite the gulf separating the two, who else could've denied Roddick the title? Lleyton Hewitt?
I doubt it. Roddick's superior ability to hold serve would've been the difference in that hypothetical showdown. Sans Fed, this could've been Roddick's third straight Wimbledon title.
This was Roddick's first Slam showdown against Federer after hiring Jimmy Connors.
The coaching switch seemed to invigorate the American, but Roger (cheered on by Tiger Woods) snagged a crucial break when Roddick was serving at 5-6 in the third set and then ran Andy ragged in the fourth.
Without Federer, Roddick would've liked his chances against either Nikolay Davydenko or James Blake in the final.
Er, the net-rushing strategy devised by Connors and Roddick didn't work out too well here, to say the least.
Still, Fernando Gonzalez in the final? True, Andy lost to Gonzo at the 2004 Athens Olympics, but Fernando—as hot as he was at the 2007 Australian Open—could be very erratic and his backhand was suspect.
That could've been Grand Slam title No. 6 for Roddick.
Roddick recovered nicely from his shellacking in Australia and put up a good fight, although an obscene return of serve by Federer in the second-set tiebreaker was Roddick's undoing.
Still, Roddick owned his head-to-head against Davydenko, who would've been too weak on serve to beat Andy in a U.S. Open semifinal.
Then Novak Djokovic in his first Grand Slam final? Remember how nervous the Serb was when trying to serve out the first set against Federer? This very well could've been Roddick's seventh Slam title.
Federer was tight as a drum playing for No. 15 with Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver watching.
He managed to break Roddick's serve just once in 38 tries. No matter, the maestro is so gifted that he beat Roddick with his own serve when nothing much else was clicking.
Without Federer in the draw, Andy likely would've won his eighth and final major with a win over surprise finalist, Tommy Haas.