They say Wimbledon is the darling of the Grand Slam tournaments, the most important two weeks in all of tennis.
But for hotshot Andy Roddick I’d say these next few weeks possess nearly the same level of necessity. Coming off of a Wimbledon where Roger Federer narrowly snatched the title away from him, Roddick faces his biggest test ever. Can he have as strong of a showing on American soil? Or will he turn his impressive Wimbledon showing into a fluke, consumed by the pressure to top his performance across the pond?
I never thought I’d admit this, but I hope Roddick manages to turn the heartbreaking Wimbledon loss into U.S. Open gold, to transform himself into the Hoosiers of the racquet. Afterall it has been a long time coming.
Right off the bat, I’ll express my dislike – actually make that disdain -- for Andy. In his early years on the tour this touted next big thing was, to me, more of a pop culture reference for dating sugary singer Mandy Moore than a true athlete. He had hype, good looks and a rocket serve that somehow netted him a U.S. Open title. Really, though, what else was in his arsenal? A few years down the road we learned exactly what: A nasty temper that spewed obnoxious umpire-directed taunts fans hadn’t been subjected to since another hotheaded American by the name of McEnroe.
With that, I wrote the guy off, searching for a different American man to save the country’s tennis destiny. Then with Wimbledon, a funny thing happened. I began to like, nay respect, Roddick. Initially I was unsure I’d even watch the embarrassing beating Federer seemed predestined to give him in the finals. Still I did. Along the way I realized Roddick could play. Backhands. Volleys, Killer passing shots. He used all these tools like a crafty plumber whipping out a secret tool box. And to top it off, the epic match revealed a heart and will to win buried underneath the 26-year-old’s cocky exterior. The tears he shed during a post-match interview truly clinched my appreciation for him.
In a few days Roddick will join an impressive field in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, set to take DC by storm from Aug. 1 to 9. The event has become a critical precursor to the U.S. Open. Roddick has taken the whole thing thrice before. This time around, however, the pressure’s on like no other. How he handles it will determine which Roddick we’ll see going forward – the prima donna or the prime time player.