First things first—congrats to Andy Roddick for winning his first title of the season at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis, beating Radek Stepanek in the final: 7-5, 7-5.
But Andy Roddick made even bigger news on Friday, when he announced he was withdrawing from this week’s ATP Dubai Tennis Championships tournament in protest of the Shahar Peer visa debacle.
Not a cheap statement, considering he’s the defending champ and will likely miss out on a six-figure appearance fee.
The always astute Roddick made his feelings on the subject crystal clear in a postmatch press conference (excerpt via tennistalk):
“I think a big part of it is I didn’t really agree with what went on over there,” the sixth-ranked American said when asked why he pulled out. “I don’t know if it’s the best thing to mix politics and sports. That was probably a big part of it.
“I made the trip over there last year after playing here,” he continued. “I just don’t…I guess I want to preface that with the time that I have spent in the UAE, I have been treated great. Everybody I’ve come across there has just been extraordinary to deal with.
“It’s just unfortunate that someone in the government can make a decision that reflects upon a tournament, which is actually a great event. I think it’s just a disappointing that when you see a headline and it revolves around tennis…something like that is disappointing to see.”
When asked if being the defending champ in Dubai almost convinced him to go back, Roddick responded, “There were a lot of factors why I should probably go. Obviously that I’ve played well there doesn’t make it any easier. Like I said, whether it was Dubai or Abu Dhabi this year for an exhibition, I’ve had great times there. I’ve really enjoyed myself.
“It’s just disappointing that that reflects a tournament which probably didn’t have much to do with the decision. Nevertheless, I just don’t feel like there’s need for that in a sporting event. I don’t think you make political statements through sports.”
Roddick noted that the upcoming Davis Cup tie was not a factor in his decision, but he did say that “it will probably help for Davis Cup, also.” He will spend the next week and half preparing for the USA’s opening-round tie against Switzerland, to be held in Birmingham. Federer has also pulled out of that event.
Andy’s thrown the tournament’s PR machine to spin-cycle mode:
The AFP reports that Dubai tournament officials pooh-poohed Roddick’s statements, claiming that the main issue was scheduling. They deemed it impossible for Andy to arrive in time for his opening round match, if he made it to the Memphis finals (which he did).
Tournament sponsors Dubai Duty Free also had a go, saying that Roddick’s withdrawal was just another injury issue, like Federer’s (back) and Nadal’s (leg).
“They have all seemed to have legitimate injuries,” Colm McLoughlin, the managing director of Dubai Duty Free, told reporters on Saturday.
“I have no concerns. We have heard that Roddick was on the start of a hernia. I didn’t hear any other reports.” (via Reuters)
Roddick nipped that story in the bud after winning Sunday’s championship match:
“There’s no other reason (for withdrawing). Obviously, I don’t have a hernia. I probably wouldn’t have played too well today. I would ask you guys to check but that might be inappropriate. I’m 100 per cent healthy.” (via Canadian Press)
The bottom line: Andy Roddick’s handled the Dubai situation better than anyone else on either tour (Peer and Ram excepted.) Hey, WTA - this is how it’s done.