Roddick cut out for Wimbledon’s grass
“Rodd-ick! Rodd-ick! Rodd-ick!’’
Surprising as it may have been to hear full-throated chants echo through the often-staid Centre Court stands — 15,000 or so voices rising as one in the moments after last year’s Wimbledon final concluded with a 16-14 fifth set — what was most remarkable was the name the spectators chose to yell.
They did not salute the champion, Roger Federer, who claimed his sixth crown at Wimbledon and record-breaking 15th Grand Slam title overall. Instead, they hailed the runner-up, Andy Roddick, who dropped to 1-4 in major finals, including 0-3 at the All England Club — each loss against Federer.
When Wimbledon begins tomorrow, Roddick will resume his quest for a championship that would mean quite a lot to him, one that barely eluded him in 2009.
Roddick served almost impeccably and was broken only once, in the 77th and last game of Federer’s 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14 victory — the longest match and longest fifth set, in terms of games, in Grand Slam final history. And don’t forget this: Roddick injured his hip when he tumbled to the court in the fourth set.
“I’m always anxious going into Wimbledon. I don’t think that’s going to change,’’ said the 27-year-old Roddick, who lives in Austin, Texas. “I don’t go in with any sense of entitlement or any sense of anything like that. I’m excited to get onto a surface that I actually feel that I can impose my game on a little bit more.’’
Or as Roddick’s coach, Larry Stefanki, put it: “Grass is what you’d call his bread-and-butter.’’
Roddick’s fastest-on-tour serve only gets speedier and tougher for opponents to handle on the slick surface at Wimbledon. It’s a formula similar to one Venus and Serena Williams employ to dominate opponents at this tournament, divvying up eight of the past 10 Wimbledon championships.
Roddick won the 2003 US Open, but he is still waiting for No. 1 at Wimbledon, and his oh-so-close calls only have increased his resolve to do well at the All England Club.
Stefanki cautioned, though, that Roddick needs to focus on the here-and-now at the start of the tournament.
“The fire, the drive, the internal flame is going to be there until he climbs the peak. But you’ve got to find a balance,’’ Stefanki said. “That’s the last thing you want to think about — winning a major — when you’ve got seven rounds to win.
“Until you get to that seventh match, you’d better put that on the back burner. I mean, way on the back burner.’’
There are plenty of players who could block the No. 5-seeded Roddick’s path, including top-seeded Federer, who has reached a record seven consecutive Wimbledon finals. The only loss in those seven came in 2008 against Federer’s nemesis, Rafael Nadal.
Other men to watch include No. 4 Andy Murray, Britain’s best hope to end a Grand Slam title drought that extends to the 1930s; No. 6 Robin Soderling, who ended Nadal’s record 31-match French Open winning streak last year and ended Federer’s record streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals at the French Open this month; and No. 18 Sam Querrey of Santa Monica, Calif., who won a tuneup title on grass last weekend.
Nadal did not defend his Wimbledon championship last year, withdrawing a few days before the tournament because of painful tendinitis in both knees.
“One year ago I was injured, and now I am not injured,’’ said Nadal, fresh off his fifth French Open championship. “That’s the big difference.’’
Roddick, of course, would love to have a Wimbledon title.
“He doesn’t feel like, ‘Oh, it was a lost opportunity last year.’ At all,’’ Stefanki said. “No, he thinks: ‘This one here is another opportunity, coming ahead on the horizon.’ Which is beautiful. That’s the attitude you have to have.’’
Has Roddick made time to watch last year’s stirring final?
“I’m sure if it was on TV somewhere, and it was a rerun, I’d probably watch it,’’ he said.
In the time that’s passed since that day, people all over have mentioned the match to Roddick, and he senses that he earned a lot of new fans.
Indeed, he hopes this year’s Wimbledon will draw to a close as the Centre Court crowd once again sings his name — this time celebrating the champion.