THE QUESTION after Andy Roddick clinched a Davis Cup victory for the U.S. by beating Romania's Razvan Sabau on Sunday was this: Was the win a blip or a sign that Roddick is close to reclaiming the mojo that has eluded him since his first-round loss at the 2005 U.S. Open? Last Friday, Roddick was thrashing Andrei Pavel when he took ill, surrendered his lunch on the court and then lost the Davis Cup opener in five sets. That defeat marked the latest in a disquieting string of setbacks for Roddick. While he is still ranked third in the world, his confidence has been punctured as opponents have gotten hip to his weaknesses--a recalcitrant backhand, a tendency to stand too far back during rallies--and have neutralized his elephant gun of a serve.
Aware that his career trajectory has vectored off, Roddick last week announced his third coaching change since 2003, hiring his brother John, 29, to replace Dean Goldfine. Unlike most family members who moonlight as tennis coaches (see: Maria Sharapova's father, Yuri, inter alia), John Roddick will be more than a human security blanket. Once a top junior and an All-America at Georgia, he knows his tennis and can impart substantive advice. He might start by convincing his brother to improve his court positioning. Mojo doesn't hit the snooze button. It doesn't stand 15 feet behind the baseline either.