Posted: Wednesday August 31, 2005 12:23PM; Updated: Wednesday August 31, 2005 2:44PM
"I'm telling you, I never felt better going into a Slam," Roddick said after the Open loss. Going into the Muller match, "I felt fine," he added.
Roddick seemed to have drawn the perfect foil for revenge in Muller, but the 22-year-old left-hander was not to be taken lightly. A third-round victory over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon had rocketed Muller from No. 100 to 68 in the rankings. A win over Agassi in 2004 had done wonders for his confidence. Asked on Tuesday if his curriculum vitae proved him the greatest player in Luxembourg's history (over Anne Kremer and Claudine Schaul), Muller erred on the side of modesty. "Yes," he said.
But Roddick didn't seem startled by Muller's greatness, perceived or otherwise. "He's definitely streaky," Roddick said. "He finaled in L.A. I think he lost in Washington. He didn't qualify for two Masters Series events. Lost [qualifiers] in two of them ... I'd be really upset if he came here and said he played badly today."
Roddick appeared to have things under control in the early going, jumping out to a 5-2 lead in the first set. But Roddick's shaky backhand gave Muller the crease he needed to climb back into the match. With his serve up and the unforced errors somewhat in check (he tallied 33 for the match), Muller had Roddick running from baseline to baseline. The bird-dogging got to be so bad that Roddick had to change shirts (from black to white) midway after the second frame.
"[Roddick] didn't play his best," said Muller, who will face his doubles partner Robby Ginepri in the next round on Thursday. "But that's not my problem."
Now, Roddick can take the 23-year-old route toward correcting his career course: a summer backpacking in Europe, a few law-school applications, a semester with the Peace Corps -- but these are unlikely options. Certainly he still has much to be proud of: winning the inaugural U.S. Open Series to name one, walking with $15,000 in prize money to name another. Most any 23-year-old would take that in defeat. But in this world, the tennis world, it's hardly, enough. Especially for a player of his ilk.
"I've always put pressure on myself," Roddick said. "It's always there. It's never going to leave."
A quarter-life others might be inclined to savor, Roddick laments.
"I haven't thought about what I'm going to do tomorrow or the next day yet," he said of his birthday plans.
So this is the charmed life of Andy Roddick: 23, single, in New York and not a snowball's chance of a Tequila shot?