At the end of 2003, people were wondering who of the young guns would emerge as the future champion of the game. Andy Roddick was number one, ahead of Roger Federer, David Ferrero, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, David Nalbandian and all the others.
Roddick and Federer had each won their first Grand Slam that year— the US Open and Wimbledon respectively—and most of the tennis world believed the future would be American or Swiss.
Federer's talent was immediate and obvious to anyone who cared to look; however, not everyone agreed whether or not he could put it all together year after year (not least mentally), and so the future might as well belong to Roddick.
2004 gave us all the answers.
Federer took it all and emerged as the undisputed number one for years to come. Roddick trailed and has done so ever since. He has met Federer four times in a Grand Slam final, and four times has he lost. Add two semifinals and a quarterfinal to that and you have a 7-0 record for Federer in Grand Slam encounters with Roddick. In fact, Federer owns a 19-2 record in head-to-head matchups with Roddick.
Has there ever been anyone more unfortunate than Roddick in terms of having to play Federer over and over during his career? I doubt it. With no Federer around, Roddick would have easily been a multiple Slam winner instead of just a good top ten player for nearly a decade. He could have given up, blaming it all on bad fortune.
Yet, Roddick doesn't give up.
He fights, he wins, he hopes, he laughs, he jokes and then he works even harder.
Before the 2009 season he lost weight and improved his fitness level tremendously with help from new coach Larry Stefanki. Together, they brought Roddick back as a genuine contender for the Slams and Master's shields.
At 27 his game is still developing, and he is not nearly as one-dimensional as he used to be. The game against Nadal proved just that, as he found himself down and halfway out against a well-playing Nadal. Where the old Roddick would have lost, the new Roddick changed tactics: he came forward bolder, stronger, and heavier, gambling with his big forehandwith success.
Tomorrow he might earn his biggest tournament victory since 2006, and if he does it will be a boon for himself and American tennis. Yet even if he fails, he has shown that he is back and can compete with the best of the best, contending for Slams and Master's titles.
On anything but clay.
Can he do it? Time will tell, but it's sure good to see him fight, believe and win.