Tuesday, July 07, 2009
The way a tennis player will be remembered in the fabrics of history is defined by a single numeric, total majors won. People will quickly forget your close calls, how many times you managed to make it to the semifinals or quarterfinals of a major, and point directly to the number 1. They will certainly ignore the lesser tournament victories like defeating Dudi Sela to take home the Beijing Open. The number 1 is what currently defines Andy Roddick's legacy. All the talent in the world, all the hope of US Tennis thrust upon his shoulders, and all he could manage was 1 major.
But perhaps that's not how Andy Roddick's legacy should hold up. Perhaps Andy Roddick is closer to Pete Sampras than he is a player who never won a major. Perhaps the lone thing that's stopped Andy Roddick from ascending into the stratosphere of American tennis is one man, Roger Federer.
In 2003, the year Roddick shot up to the #1 player in the world, it came off the strength of his lone Major Championship and two trips to Major semifinals. The second of which was the Wimbledon semifinals. Who was the road block in his way to the Wimbledon crown? Roger Federer of course. After defeating Roddick for the first time at Wimbledon, Federer went on to defeat Mark Philippoussis in straight sets to secure his first of 15 Major Titles. Would Roddick have defeated Sillypoosis? It's a toss up, but we'll give it to him, so the number is now 2.
The following season, Roddick advanced to the Finals of Wimbledon after having destroyed the field. In his matches prior to the Finals Roddick dropped just one set. But yet again it was Federer standing between him and the trophy and yet again it was Federer winning the key tiebreakers holding up the trophy. If Federer didn't exist, there's no doubt in my mind that Roddick takes home the title, so the number is now 3.
In 2005 the cycle went on rinse, wash, repeat. Again Roddick battled his way through the field into the Wimbledon finals and again the man waiting for him was none other than Roger Federer. In all likelihood if Federer didn't exist it would have been Lleyton Hewitt standing in Roddick's way. This would have been an epic match but we'll give it to Roddick, so the number is now 4.
In 2006, despite struggling for the majority of the season and falling to #9 in the rankings, Roddick brought his A game to the US Open. He blistered the field and made it to the finals to face, Federer of course. Federer easily dispatched of him in 4 sets after defeating Nikolay Davydenko in the semis. If Roddick faced Davydenko in the finals, he would have won. So the number is now 5.
In 2007 Roddick was twice thwarted in a major by Mr. Federer. In the Australian Open at the start of the season, Roddick advanced to the Semifinals only to be bounced by Federer. The other finalist, Fernando Gonzalez was playing terrifically before getting pummeled by Federer, but I'd give Roddick a punchers chance. Later in 07, Roddick as the 5 seed got the lucky draw of pulling Federer in the quarterfinals. He of course lost and then watched Federer beat Davydenko and Djokovic to take home the US Open Title. If Federer didn't exist than Roddick would have had a chance to take home both titles and for the sake of this post we say his does, so the number is now at 7.
In 2008 Roddick was an embarrassment, so we'll skip the entire year.
In 2009 however, Roddick has come back with avengence. In his first three majors he's equalled or bettered his best result. Unfortunately, equalling his best results in the Australian Open and Wimbledon meant losing to Federer once again. In the Australian Open this season Roddick knocked off Djokovic in the quarterfinals but would have needed to fight through Federer and then Nadal in the finals. To be realistic, even if Federer didn't exist, he likely would have lost to Nadal.
And finally we come to the Wimbledon finals this past weekend where Roddick was likely playing his best tennis ever. He certainly was playing his best tennis against Federer in a Grand Slam tournament. Yet it still wasn't enough. He couldn't take home the title because that one man stood in his way. If Federer didn't? Than the number would currently sit at 8.
If Roddick's number was at 8 he'd sit amongst the greatest American players of all time. He would have equalled Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors totals. He would have bettered John McEnroe's total of 7. But instead he had to play his career in parallel with the greatest player of all time. He had to face off against Federer every time he advanced deep into a Grand Slam tournament and instead of 8 he sits at 1. And thus instead of the sitting amongst the greatest players in American lore, he's listed as amongst the greatest disappointments. Simply put, it's all because of one man, Roger Federer.