Passing shots: Roddick wasn't just typical underdog at Wimbledon
"How come they're cheering for Andy?" she asked. "I thought it was Roger going for the record."
I thought about it for a moment. This wasn't just a case of the crowd gravitating toward the heavy underdog, the customary move for impartial observers. Many fans seemingly were pulling for the American because they understood Roddick had more to gain from winning.
Not to trivialize Federer's stake in the outcome, which was obvious and considerable. Yes, the 27-year-old was playing for a place in history, to surpass
For Roddick, a victory would have altered the course of his entire career, bringing about a return to the
And doesn't Roddick deserve it? Many American fans, spoiled by their country's legacy of tennis megastars and if-you're-not-first-you're-last mentality, have made Roddick a kind of a whipping boy in recent years. Some have pigeonholed the 26-year-old as a one-hit wonder instead of emphasizing his accomplishments, which are ample. Yes, Roddick has won only a single Slam, the last victory by an American man in a major tournament. But he's also finished every season since 2002 ranked in the top 10, a distinction only Federer can match, and collected 27 career titles. While previous American alpha dogs like Sampras and
I don't think I'm alone in sensing that Roddick gets an unfair rap, which is why many hoped he could pull off the upset of upsets Sunday by derailing Federer and halting the longest Grand Slam drought for American men in the Open era.
And what a shocker it would've been. Roddick had lost 18 of 20 meetings against Federer, frequently in lopsided fashion, a trend punctuated by soul-crushing defeats in three Grand Slam finals.
On the other hand, this wasn't exactly the surprise many folks made it out to be. Roddick, aided by a renewed commitment to fitness under new coach
On Sunday, Roddick played a complete match. He saved some of his most spectacular moments for the longest fifth set in Grand Slam history, a 95-minute epic in which Roddick held serve 10 times with the championship on the line before Federer could break through. Perhaps most impressive was how Roddick held up against Federer. It's not like Roddick just caught him on an off day: Federer boomed a career-best 50 aces -- one short of
Roddick could scarcely hide his pain during the postmatch trophy ceremony, like when Federer told Roddick that he also had experienced hard times at Wimbledon and overcome them -- a reference to his devastating loss to
It was a painful, awkward, honest moment that crystallized the central tragedy: that Roddick had just played the match of his life and it wasn't enough.
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