Andy Roddick is one frustrating man to root for.
At this point in his career his early exits should be expected, but for some reason it never feels that way—at least not until the moment when he's waiting at the net to shake hands, while his opponent is sending air kisses and tennis balls into the stands.
Wednesday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, we witnessed yet another standard Andy Roddick loss. "He went out and earned a win," Roddick said after Jarko Tipsarevic beat him in four sets.
It's really an amazing coincidence that almost every time Roddick loses, his opponent happens to play at the highest level. Bad luck, you ask? Luck is for blackjack and roulette players.
Giving credit where it's due, Jarko did play one hell of a match last night. However, Roddick performed more conservatively than a stand-up comic in a church.
Both players rallied back and forth from the baseline, as fans watched and waited to see who would make an unforced error first. What they saw was winners instead of errors, and they were not hit by the home favorite in blue.
Grand Slam loss after Grand Slam loss, I still find myself sitting in front of the television every year, like a naive child thinking, "This is his time." After about 10 years, I think last night's loss to Tipsarevic just about ended my wishful thinking in regards to Andy Roddick ever winning another Grand Slam trophy.
Yes, he still has a dominant serve, and yes, he's still one of the most talented players in the world. But in this crazy game we call tennis, (or any other game for that matter) it's about the mental toughness and the ability to overcome adversity. Poor Andy just seems to be missing that one desirable quality that all champions share.
Whether it's a blister, his opponent's high level of play, his swimsuit model wife in the stands, or simply having an off day, something always seems to go wrong when the going gets tough for Andy Roddick.
In July of 2009, it looked like Roddick had made his resurgence back to the tennis elite. He had won his first and only Grand Slam in Flushing in 2003, and last year against the world's best he had the chance to win his second Grand Slam, advancing to the finals of Wimbledon.
Despite losing a classic and well-fought battle to Roger Federer, he seemed to win back his supporters, while convincing the world that this would be a new beginning. He was like Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, deceiving us by planting this "crazy" idea in our heads that Andy Roddick would assert himself and join the likes of Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer as the game's elite class.
He was as close as you can get, losing 16-14 in the fifth set to the best player in the galaxy. He had revamped his game, and he looked stronger than ever.
Well, maybe it just wasn't meant to be. His following five Grand Slam results after the loss to Federer: third round loss in 2009 US Open...quarterfinals loss in 2010 Australian Open...third round loss in 2010 French Open...fourth round loss in 2010 Wimbledon...followed by last night's second round loss in the 2010 US Open.
The guy is just missing that "it" factor. The "it" is not like an acquired taste for wine that you pick up with time. It's not something you can practice day in and day out or something you can study. It has nothing to do with strategy, mechanics, or strength.
Without "it," you're just another athlete in the draw relying on pure talent, and in a tournament that requires six wins to be a champion, talent alone most likely won't be enough.
Roddick is like the Steve Carell of the Emmys. He's funny enough to be nominated year after year, yet he never wins "The Most Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series" award. Andy does well enough throughout the year to earn himself annual rankings in the top 10 and seems to be a top seed in every Grand Slam event he plays in. He just doesn't have the full package to beat out the highest, and at times the most inferior, competition.
"I'll sleep a lot better than I did at Wimbledon, which basically, I thought, felt like I hand-fed someone a win. ... Tonight, I felt like the guy earned it." I could have heard Morgan Freeman read that quote in a completely different context with his immaculate voice and still guessed it was Andy Roddick that said it.
He's just missing that warrior, killer instinct approach to the game that champions use as fuel. You just get the feeling he's more of a celebrity with a popular Twitter page and a hot wife than he is a successful athlete.
With Andy Roddick now 28 years old, we wonder if we have seen the best of him. We wonder if he has another run left in him that could help erase years of disappointment. It seems Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi should be sitting comfortably in their seats knowing that no American is going to replace their faces as tennis heroes anytime soon. But hey, there's always next year, right?