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Tale of the Tape

Hewitt-Roddick: Who'll win the duel of ex-phenoms?

Posted: Tuesday September 5, 2006 8:15PM; Updated: Wednesday September 6, 2006 1:03PM
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Andy Roddick (left) wears his cap forward; Lleyton Hewitt prefers his backward. Hewitt holds a 6-2 career edge. Coincidence?
Andy Roddick (left) wears his cap forward; Lleyton Hewitt prefers his backward. Hewitt holds a 6-2 career edge. Coincidence?
Bob Martin/SI; AP

They are separated by 18 months in age and three inches in height, and their hometowns by more than 7,000 miles of ocean. And yet when Lleyton Hewitt met Andy Roddick in Arthur Ashe Stadium five years ago, their fates became forever intertwined.

Andy was the 19-year-old kid phenom with the killer serve. Lleyton was the much-hyped 22-year-old with a for-real return game and the Tasmanian Devil's flair (and endurance) for chasing down points. Both players seemed to be coming of age when they met in the 2001 U.S. Open quarterfinals, and in a sense, they did. Hewitt won the Open that year and Roddick two years thereafter.

But since? They've fallen well short of expectations (though some of that thanks to a man named Federer). Just how far have these mighty fallen? Hewitt saw his ranking sink to a career-low 20th two years after his coronation in Queens; Roddick's dipped to a career-low 12th in three years' time.

Hewitt and Roddick meet again Wednesday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium with much more in common than their blond hair and hair-trigger tempers. Hewitt holds a 6-2 lead in the series -- besting Roddick most recently at the '05 ATP Masters -- but who's to say he will be the former No. 1 who rights his career the quickest?

Let's turn to the Tape for some answers:

Tale of the Tape
Lleyton Hewitt Andy Roddick Verdict
Major Malfunction Only two (U.S. Open, '01; Wimbledon, '02) Only one (U.S. Open, '03) Advantage Hewitt. Still, when he beat Sampras in '01, Pete had him dominating "for the next 10 years."
One Dimension Blistering return game Scorcher of a serve that's second to none Point to Roddick, who has won 96 percent of his games on serve so far on the blue courts this year.
Doubles Partner Wife Bec Cartwright (and daughter Mia Rebecca); '05 Open champ Kim Clijsters Mandy Moore, Maria Sharapova (maybe) Advantage Hewitt. Point was originally called for Roddick, but a HawkEye review of the fortnight's interview transcripts revealed denials of Rodapova by both parties, thereby conceding the point to Hewitt.
Coach in Corner Roger Rasheed Jimmy Connors Advantage Jimbo, who's got Roddick on a 10-match winning streak and is 16-1 since hooking up with A-Rod this summer.
Trophy Hunt Beat Pete Sampras 7-6, 6-1, 6-1 to win the Open in '01 Beat Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 to advance to this year's Open quarterfinals and vanquish the man who ended Andre Agassi's career Advantage Roddick, who a day earlier sympathized with Becker, foisted into the (unfortunately) cartoonish role of the hunter who shot Bambi. But "shooting the guy who shot Bambi?" Roddick said. "I guess it feels a lot better than shooting Bambi."
Cap Comfort Backward Forward Deuce
Famous Flipout In the '01 Open round of 64 against James Blake, accused (black) umpire Andres Egli of playing favorites when two Hewitt foot-faults turned into points for Blake At the '01 Open quarterfinals against Hewitt, called umpire Jorge Dias "a moron" when Dias overruled a line call on the first point of a game in which Roddick trailed 4-5 in the fifth set Advantage Hewitt, who has yet to man up with an apology for Jimmy Kid.
Mag Mentions GQ voted him the U.S.'s 10th most hated athlete in '06 People named him its sexiest athlete in '03 Deuce. It could've gone either way.
Punchier Pitch When an in-match bathroom break takes too long, mom Cherilyn tosses a roll of Sorbent toilet paper from the grandstand, which is then relayed to Hewitt, who goes on to wipe the floor with his opponent Drop shots an ace to take a point from Amex's PONG Advantage Roddick. At least he didn't get caught with his pants down again like last year. (Hello, Mojo!)
Fans in Stands The Fanatics Females upon females upon females Advantage Roddick. Don't hate the player.

And with that, the Tape has spoken: Game to Roddick, 5-3, in a walkaway.

But the Tape makes no claims of being scientific. (There are no sure things until the rain stops.) Still, this much is certain: These two deserve each other.