Roddick: The comeback kid who never went away

Last Updated: Fri, Aug 28, 2009 16:01 hrs

Steve Keating

Montreal: For many tennis fans, Andy Roddick's epic final against Roger Federer at Wimbledon last month signalled the American's return to the sport's elite.

In reality, Roddick never went away.

Roddick seeks crumbs of comfort after thriller

Since 2002, only two players have finished every year in the top 10 of the ATP Tour world rankings. Their names? Federer and Roddick.

It comes as no surprise that the Swiss maestro, who has crammed a record 15 grand slams into his trophy case over those eight seasons, would find his name at the top of a short list.

But Roddick, who holds just one grand slam title from the 2003 US Open, does not automatically leap to mind as the other.

Spaniard Rafael Nadal, Serb Novak Djokovic and, most recently, Briton Andy Murray have stepped up to fill the role of Federer's chief rival while Roddick faded into the background.

But since Wimbledon, Roddick is no longer tennis's forgotten man and in the buildup to this year's US Open has figured prominently among the discussion of possible champions.

"Andy's not under the radar anymore and that's probably a good thing," Brad Gilbert, Roddick's former coach said.

"Now that the expectations are there, I think he's ready to handle it. He is definitely one of the six guys capable of winning."

It was not a great victory but a gut-wrenching five-set loss that thrust the 26-year-old American back into the spotlight.
His gritty effort in the Wimbledon final earned him equal measures of sympathy and respect.

A wounded Roddick was gracious in defeat, not always the case with the combative American.


While Roddick's game has matured so has the player.

Recently married, Roddick concedes life has changed and along with it the way fans see him, although he insists at his core nothing is different.

"During my career I've kind of been portrayed as every single type of person: good, bad, ugly, rude," said Roddick.

"This is kind of the first time it's been presented in a light that's kind of the hard-working, everyday-Joe-type tennis player trying to make good while the meat and potatoes of who I am has probably stayed the same."

Roddick notches 500th win to reach Washington quarters

Some of the credit for Roddick's resurgence can be directly traced to Larry Stefanki, who signed on as coach in December, putting a premium on fitness and whipping the world number five into the best shape of his career.

While Roddick's booming serve remains a major threat, it is no longer the only weapon in an expanding arsenal.

His fitness has brought new poise and confidence that has allowed him to tinker with his groundstrokes providing a variety of new options.

"He used to serve a touch bigger, go for the serve a little bit more," said Gilbert. "I think everything in his game looks better now, he's moving 1,000 times better. Not only is he moving better when he gets there he can do something a lot better. Sometimes things have a way of coming together.

"When you have more harmony off the court, you have more harmony on the court.

"When I was with him he was 20, he's older now, he's mature and he's been through a lot of battles.

"He looks very keen and motivated out there to keep fighting the fight."

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