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January 26, 2010

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Australian Open 2010, Melbourne, Australia
January 26, 2010
Editorial by Jane Voigt.


Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

It's Something To Think About
January 26, 2010 -- Fan favorites Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick limped away from their quarterfinal losses today at Melbourne Park, halting their aspirations to advance to the semifinals of the year's first Major. This was the first time Nadal retired from competition. Roddick lost in the fifth set to the Croatian phenom Marin Cilic, but the American's game was hampered by a shoulder injury throughout their match.
Both Nadal and Roddick will be missed, as the tournament spins through its last weekend. Nadal, the defending champion and #2 seed, has millions of fans worldwide, as does American Andy Roddick. To think that their careers might be slowing because of injuries is an unpleasant, if not totally disagreeable notion. What would we do without them?
Nadal turned pro in 2001, when he was 15. He began to rip up the tennis world with his rough and tumble playing style in 2004. He is probably best known for his four consecutive French Open titles. However, his win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2008 fills the Spaniard with the most pride.
Robin Soderling's upset of the King of Clay at Roland Garros first revealed Nadal's knee tendonitis. He began feeling the effects of the condition following his title run at Indian Wells. Without the proper rest and therapy, the tendonitis was exacerbated. Today, Rafa wasn't going to push himself as he had done last spring, in fear of risking greater damage to his precious wheels. He decided to retire from the match in the third set at 0-3, relinquishing the victory to Andy Murray 63 76 (2) 3-0.
"I felt pain still there without no one minimum chance to do nothing, the same time is hard for me to be five more games there without try nothing, no?" Nadal began. "So I don't know if I still playing can go worst or something. So I said, well, no repeat the same mistake like I had last year. I go to the limit, but not cross the limit, no?"
Nadal admitted that his level of play today had finally equaled that which he had reached at last year's Australian Open.
"I think my level was very high today," Nadal said. "I had big chances. I had big chances to win both sets. I was very close. So I go out from this tournament very happy about my level because the perspective is much better right now than two or three months ago. Now I am playing another time at my best level."
An ever optimistic Rafa believes he will be okay, as the season marches forward. The twinge he felt in his right knee at the end of the second set probably came from a bad movement, he explained to the press.
"I think going to be okay," he concluded. We can only hope.
Nadal's career has frequently been couched in comparative terms to Roger Federer. Their playing styles are miles apart. Their temperaments contrast to the same stark degree as black and white photographs. We have been fortunate to have both of men at the top of the charts for so many years.
However, the prognosis coming from a camp of orthopedic doctors isn't hopeful about Nadal's longevity on tour. They expect that the tendonitis will cause other problems such as shin splints and complications in his feet. Fans cannot forget the sight of the bottom of Nadal's foot at Rome in 2008 while taking a medical time out during his match against Juan Carlos Ferrero. The ball of Rafa's foot appeared to have a hole in it, after all tape had been removed. To slide around on red clay with those feet took more than adrenalin. Ferrero defeated his friend that day.
Nadal is not out of the game, as far as we can tell. But the condition of his knees coupled with the style of his game, makes it a possibility. He has not changed his aggressive defensive game. He is more likely to take an offensive position in a match, but his signature running and digging for points remains as much as part of him as does his muscular left arm. Some things cannot be changed.
Andy Roddick's courageous comeback, to tie the match against Marin Cilic at two sets all, illustrated his commitment to tennis. The American's right shoulder was less than perfect from the start.
"I felt it a little bit the other night, the cold weather, trying to hit through those for a while," Roddick began. "Felt pretty good today in warmup, the first couple games, then I think I aggravated something."
Roddick saw the trainer, Paul Ness, in the first set. He informed the #7 seed that the problem 'was stemming from the neck down' and that he could continue play without risking too much.
"Obviously anytime there's something with an arm, a numbness with your fingers, I'm going to be a little bit concerned," Roddick continued. "My arm is pretty much my livelihood."
Anytime Andy Roddick's first serve percentage slips to 60%, as it did in the first set, something's off. That stat normally hovers around 80%. Anytime Roddick doesn't give 110%, something is off. He had to sidearm shots today, which influenced Cilic.
"When I saw he took a medical, I didn't know what was it for," Cilic said. "I didn't know what to expect. He was that second set a little bit down with his composure also. It seemed that he was letting it go a little bit easier than in the first set. I didn't know what to expect. Third set was a bit of a surprise. I think he went for it little bit more and gave it a shot, which was obviously working for him and not for me."
Cilic will play in his first semifinal of a major against Andy Murray on Friday.
When we witness our heroes struggle at their sport, we, too, struggle -- even if it's a momentary emotional glance at the possibility, and future reality, that they won't be part of our tennis world forever. Andy Roddick has been a fabric of our national pride since he was 18 -- a decade. His involvement with Davis Cup was integral to the team's success. His determination against Roger Federer at Wimbledon last year; his shear outrageous stand that he would triumph made believers out of many who had found Roddick intolerable for all his quirkiness and agitated court antics.
Tennis careers are such a sprint, nowadays. The graceful game slowly gave way to battles when Jimmy Connors began grunting on court. Since then, well, if you find a hero and fall in love letting go -- or even thinking about what it would be like to let go -- is something we'd all rather not think about, let alone witness.

Earlier Columns from this Event:
January 25, 2010 Australian Open: Tennis's Tough Standards
January 24, 2010 Australian Open: Competition, Pure and Simple
January 23, 2010 Australian Open: Stosur, Hewitt Advance, Dellacqua Goes Home To Perth
January 22, 2010 Australian Open: Little Known, Little Being Said
January 21, 2010 Australian Open: The Happy Slam
January 20, 2010 Australian Open: Margin Of Error
January 19, 2010 Australian Open: Soderling Shocked, Oudin Ousted
January 18, 2010 Australian Open: And We Begin, Again; Australian Open kicks off with impromptu benefit for Haiti

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