Heartbreak continues for Roddick; plus Battle of Belgium and more
Andy Roddick, soon 28, has lost in five sets at four of the past five Slams
Kim Clijsters has turned the tables on Justine Henin in Career 2.0
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal finally looked like their familiar selves
WIMBLEDON, England -- Three thoughts from the opening day of Week 2 at Wimbledon:
It took a week, but finally, on the best tennis day of the year, we had our Grade-A upset of Wimbledon 2010. When Andy Roddick lost to Roger Federer 16-14 in the fifth set of the 2009 Wimbledon final, it was devastating. But there were abundant moral victories and sources of pride. No shame in coming within a few points of beating the best ever. On Monday, Roddick lost 9-7 in the fifth set to little-known Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei* and, well, as Roddick himself was quick to note: "I'm going to be pissed when I wake up tomorrow."
Hard as he fights, as much pride as he displays, as much mileage as he's gotten out of fairly limited tools, Roddick has become tennis' Heartbreak Kid. At four of the last five Slams, he's lost in five sets. Part of the disappointment Monday was in losing to a player Roddick had owned in the past, ranked outside the top 50 and unaccustomed to the big stage. But it's compounded by context. With both Federer and Rafael Nadal looking vulnerable during the first week, there was a buzz that Roddick had a real chance to win this tournament and bag that elusive second Slam. While that might have been a stretch, so was the notion that he would fall so woefully short.
Lu deserves plenty of credit. Though he stands less than 6 feet tall and seldom serves faster than 120 mph, he wasn't broken in the final four sets. He bedeviled Roddick with low, flat shots and showed off some clever shot-making. He took calculated risks, punished Roddick's backhand and showed no signs of fatigue at any point over four-and-a-half hours. When Lu, 26, lost the fourth set, he would've been well within his rights to deflate (see: Alejandro Falla vs. Federer a week ago.) Instead, he sustained his level in the fifth set and closed out the match with some nifty returning and passing.
Not that this is much consolation for the loser. Roddick turns (gulp) 28 this summer; this was, unmistakably, an opportunity squandered.
Said Roddick: "If I want to consider myself a contender for this tournament, I've got to get through that match."
* Note to the broadcasters: Despite what the ATP media guide might say, Lu is not from Chinese Taipei. He is from Taiwan, the capital of which is Taipei. Lu called his people "Taiwanese" and we should, too.
In the much-anticipated Battle of Belgium, the match was won by the steely, intense, businesslike competitor who retired but then decided that she wasn't through winning. We speak, naturally, of Kim Clijsters.
When they battled in Career 1.0, Justine Henin didn't just beat Clijsters, she often broke her, winning matches by virtue of superior mental fitness. In Career 2.0, it's been the inverse, Clijsters taking ownership of the matches and winning the points that mattered most. That was the case Monday.
After a slow start, Clijsters asserted herself and roughed up Henin in three sets. If Clijsters can sustain both her ball-striking -- potent, yes, but also deep and accurate -- and her newfound appetite for battle, she has a real chance to upend the Williams-Williams juggernaut. As for Henin, this defeat must be crushing -- and not simply because she lost to her countrywoman for the third time in 2010. When asked why she returned to tennis after an 18-month hiatus, Henin has responded that there was still business left to take care of at Wimbledon, the lone Slam she'd never won. Sadly, said business remains unfinished.
What rust? What bad knee? Federer came within a strong serving game of being evicted from the draw in the first round. Nadal twice needed all five available sets to fend off challengers during the first week, not least because he was hampered by a sore knee.
On Monday, though, both looked like their familiar, indomitable selves, on course to meet in the final. Federer waxed Austrian lefty Jurgen Melzer in straight sets in what was less a match than a grass-tennis clinic. Nadal may have been even better. Showing no signs of injury, he blitzed Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. For all the Week 1 chaos, the chaff's been separated from the wheat and only eight players remain, Federer and Nadal both among them.
Now, let's hit the mailbag for some quick questions:
"Can't they both be heroic in their way?" Nope. There is no possible scenario in which two millionaire athletes playing an 11-hour tennis match over three days can be termed "heroic." It devalues the term and therefore makes it meaningless. Why can't I, then, be "heroic in my own way" for getting up and going to work every day? They played a long tennis match. Let's not turn them into saints because the loser didn't throw a chair (or whatever) at Isner.
-- Alexander Hoffman
I can only imagine how you feel about Guitar Hero. Heroes save lives; they don't try to strum the right notes to Karma Chameleon. There are heroic appetites (on display when consuming meatball heroes).
Also, I would hardly call the players "millionaires," as though they're eating caviar on their Gulfstreams. Mahut has made $2 million for his 10-year career -- pre-tax -- and a large chunk of that goes to expenses.
Jon -- Billie Jean coached Tim Mayotte for a brief period and he had a great run that year at W......
-- Whit Kenerson, Newport Beach, Calif.
Thanks. Several of you noted that. (This vis-à-vis our discussion of women coaching men.)
Hello, Jon. My tennis-playing friends and I were sitting around trying to come up with companies who should sponsor John Isner and/or Mahut or use them in their advertising. How about a contest among your readers for the best ideas? Here is my entry: Isner for Cialis -- call your doctor if you have a competition lasting four or more hours.
-- Jason D., Bend, Ore.
Very good. I was thinking Snickers. "Not going anywhere for a while?" Or the old McDonalds, "You deserve a break today." Think you can top that? A prize to the winner. For the sake of not clogging my inbox, please send via my twitter jon_wertheim.
Not to prolong the Pam Shriver-James Blake discussion, but Shriver admonishing him to "concentrate" makes her position pretty much indefensible. Start 45 seconds into this video.
-- Jai Krishnan, San Francisco
Surprised this is still a hot topic. Look, this was not a great moment in journalism. Shriver shouldn't have made the patronizing (and not professional) remark, though I suspect this was meant as friendly advice. I realize that the Shriver bashing has been pretty intense, but here's my defense. (And I preface by saying, in full disclosure, that I like Pam personally and that's probably coloring by view to some extent.) It seems to me that at some point Pam made a choice. She could have a safe career -- as others in her position have done -- cheerleading unconditionally for the sport, tossing softballs, stating the obvious and repeating shopworn stories about players. Or she could try to be outspoken and enterprising, leaving the comfort of the studio to roam the grounds, advancing stories, experimenting with her role and adding something of value to broadcast. Sometimes jokes would fall flat. Sometimes live TV would not be her friend (see: 2009 U.S. Open). Sometimes she would offend. But I give her a lot of credit for getting out there working, reporting and taking chances. I vote slack.
Nicolas Mahut received a wild card into next week's Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, R.I. Nice touch.
Enjoy Tuesday, but keep Jennifer Capriati in your thoughts ...