Roddick deserved better in this epic server's duel
Jul 5, 2009
I'm not sure a player has ever been more worthy of winning a championship, and still failed to come away with the trophy, than Roddick was in his 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14 loss to Federer.
Federer is widely considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time, and he has historically presented an extraordinarily difficult matchup for Roddick, who just didn't have enough mobility off the ground to stay with Federer in the rallies. But Roddick is a vastly different player than he was even at the end of the last year, thanks to his new coach, Larry Stefanki, and this match had an entirely different complexion.
At the end of 2008, Roddick convinced Larry Stefanki to leave Fernando Gonzalez and become his coach. Roddick has wanted to work with Stefanki for a while (Stefanki is one of the greatest coaches in tennis), but Gonzalez had called Stefanki personally a few years back and asked him to be his coach, while Roddick made the mistake of having a member of his camp reach out to Stefanki. It is hard to say how much that decision has haunted Roddick, but a few years later, Roddick convinced Stefanki to become his coach, and the turnaround has been amazing.
Stefanki convinced Roddick that, in order to move well enough to hit with the best players, he needed to slim down about 15 pounds, extraordinarily difficult for a guy who was already in superb shape. Roddick managed to do this in the off season, and has been a completely different player since, capable of rallying with even the best players in the game. He used his new capability to beat Andy Murray in the semi-finals, rallying with Murray, biding his time, then attacking with speed, agression, and an improved forehand and backhand.
Roddick managed to stay with Federer in the rallies, a capability, coupled with great serving, that allowed him to hold serve for every game but the last of the match. Many times through the match, Andy was only a point away from taking an almost insurmountable lead against Federer, with 4 set points to win the second set, and 2 chances in the fifth to go up a break and serve out the match. Very few players have the conditioning or the mental fortitude to serve from behind, needing to hold to stay in the match, for 9 straight games, but Roddick did it. That, along with the extraordinary conditioning and mental fortitude of Federer, explains why this match was the longest (in terms of games) in Grand Slam history, and why this fifth set was almost an entire match in and of itself.
Federer, by winning this match, also broke the record for the most grand slam men's titles, winning his 15th, and breaking the tie with Sampras, who came to witness the event. I have to say that while I think Federer is a class act, I was much more impressed by Roddick. Federer's attempts to claim that he understood what it was like for Roddick to lose an epic final showed his obliviousness to what it must be like to never have won Wimbledon -- to lose that epic 5 set final and possibly your only chance at the title. I'll be rooting for Roddick to take the US Open, and win Wimbledon -- and both are much more likely than they were at the same time last year.
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About the reviewer
Ari Miller (ari1974)
I mostly write about my main obsession, tennis. When I'm not experimenting with new tennis racquets, I love to watch a good movie or read a great book. I'm a fan of both non-fiction (especially books … more
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