A few quick, random mid-week questions ... I'll hand out U.S. Open midterm grades on Sunday.
Tennis writers should take a good look at Andy Roddick's game. He hasn't really played well this year; he's mainly won tournaments without facing any top-10 players. I like Roddick, but Patrick McEnroe's comment after Roddick lost to Gilles Muller Tuesday night that "[P. Mac] didn't see [the loss] as an issue," is an example of how we've pampered Roddick by mostly excusing his losses because he's such a nice guy.
Roddick's game does not measure up to his serve, and if you're a tough baseliner who can pass and move the ball around with pace while just blocking his serve back to get the point started, you're in good shape. Roddick needs to start beating these guys. -- Esigie Aguele, Washington, D.C.
By late Tuesday night the Roddick questions -- all a variation of, "Dude, where's his mojo?" -- started trickling in. It was a stunning upset by any measure. Sure, Muller played brilliant, gutsy tennis; but you expect a former U.S. Open champion and current top-five player to figure out a way to pull out a match like that. Roddick now has lost four consecutive sets in New York. For a player who's usually gangbusters on hardcourts, he lost three matches to players outside the top 20 this summer.
The diagnoses are all over the map. I don't buy many I've heard.
His backhand is still a liability. True, but it's probably better than it was in 2003 when he the best player in the world.
He hasn't been the same since he canned Brad Gilbert. I don't buy this one, either. Bad coaching or bad preparation is hardly the problem here. If anything, Roddick has shown more variety in his game this year. And his physical fitness has never been better.
He's been cosseted and overhyped by the media. Probably true to an extent. But Roddick is sufficiently grounded that some nice press clippings or some fawning from the ESPN booth isn't going to inflate his ego.
He doesn't seem able to generate the same "stick" on his shots. I might buy this. It seems that opponents -- I noticed that when Roddick lost to Paul-Hank Mathieu earlier this month in Montreal and again last night -- no longer get blown off the court. Roddick will get his share of aces, but once the rally begins he doesn't dictate as much.
Far as I can tell, the biggest issue is mental. Roddick once was a terrific "big-point" player who prevailed in tie-breaks and seemed to have a sixth sense for elevating his game when the match tightened. For him to lose three straight breakers to a player ranked No. 68 is astonishing. Plus, I wonder if his failure to make a dent against Roger Federer has -- perhaps even subconsciously -- dulled his self-belief. When you go to work knowing that even if you perform to the peak of your abilities you still have little chance of being No. 1, it has to affect you at some level.