End of the Year Drama
November 24, 2010 -- As hordes of students protested in London about an expected hike in school tuition, several of the eight elite players at The Barclay's ATP World Tour Final prepared to take center stage at the magnificent and dramatic O2 Arena.
This Championship is supposed to be a celebrated finale for the ATP and something along the lines of a major for the players who worked the hardest, went the farthest, and didn't blow out any body joint to the extent that the whole year was wasted. You can put Juan Martin del Potro in that category. His 2009 U. S. Open title made him a direct entry into London last year. However, soon afterward his injured wrist ushered him backstage and out of tour contention. He will make a comeback in January.
This year the short list of leading actors has to include two standouts in singles -- Roger Federer and Andy Roddick.
Federer's claim to tennis fame is well documented. The man has a hard time shopping any place from a convenience store to the chicest toy store worldwide. He and his family can't relax on a remote beach without paparazzi motoring within long-lens range for photographs either. At least we haven't read about any rough encounters with the star-grazed snappers, which would definitely go against the perception of Fed fans.
Federer holds innumerable records, the most prestigious being his 16 major titles. Second, is his insurmountable 23-straight semifinal appearances at Grand Slams. That achievement will never be broken, at least not over the next several decades... by which time anyone reading this column will have passed along to the great green grass courts in the skies above Wimbledon.
Federer has also won at least 60 matches per season for the last four years. His match record for 2010 is 68-9. The only other player to attain sixty or more match wins per season the last four years is Rafael Nadal. His match record mirrors Federer's at 68-9. No wonder these two have vied for the number one ranking the last six-and-a-half years.
This is Federer's ninth consecutive year-end tournament and Roddick's eighth. Both men have ranked in the top ten for nine years running. They are also the only three players to have played in the year-ending event in Houston, Shanghai, and London, the three most recent venues for the event.
Finally, Federer and Roddick are the only active players to win at least one ATP World Tour title for ten straight years.
That the American shares such lofty records can slip by pundits because Roddick's other results, measured a million different ways, doesn't read like Roger Federer's, particularly because the American won his one and only major -- the 2003 U. S. Open -- early in his career and never backed it up with more. Outside that, Andy Roddick deserves buckets of praise for his accomplishments but goes unnoticed for them frequently.
For example, this summer Roddick slipped outside the top ten. More news was generated from his slight skid than he normally draws when inside the upper echelon.
For example, multiple conversations across all media sprang up about the demise of American tennis. Sam Querrey's losses in the fourth rounds of Wimbledon and The U. S. Open spurred journalists to pepper the top-twenty Californian with questions about the future viability of American tennis.
Roddick sat at #13 on August 13 and he was about to drag the entire American tennis industry into a cauldron of despair. Might as well let the hard courts of America crack, grow weeds, and use them for cow pastures.
Querrey, coming to America's and Andy's rescue, assured the press he was doing the best he could and that his buddies were right alongside him. With older, more mature players wracking up the titles of late, Querrey's results may just be his best place to launch an assault on the top ten over the next few years. As of Monday, four Americans sat in the top twenty: Mardy Fish (16), Sam Querrey (18), John Isner (19), and the elder Andy Roddick at #8. Pretty respectable for almost having been swallowed up by one player's downturn this summer.
Roddick has advanced to three semifinals at the ATP Championships, but has also had to bow out due to injury. That he has remained as fit as newcomers and transformed his game to remain in keen contention are two facts worthy of medals.
With tennis more physical than ever, both Roddick and Federer deserve special mention for improving, maintaining, and winning titles along the way.
Paul Annacone, Federer's newest addition to his coaching staff, remarked recently that the Swiss was more eager to learn and change than he'd even seen from someone his age and years on tour. Larry Stefanki has taken a willing Roddick around the court a few hundred times, too, infusing the Texan with vital energy and self-assurance.
Unfortunately, Andy's performance in London this year hasn't been stellar. He lost in his second round-robin match today against Tomas Berdych, a player he dominated on three other occasions this year.
For the first nine-and-a-half games, Roddick controlled the match. Berdych didn't need an engraved invitation to take advantage of his break at 6-5 and closed the first set at 7-5. Berdych elevated his game in the second set while Roddick became increasingly agitated. He climbed in his head and away from the court, argued with the Chair Umpire, and went down 6-3 in the second on two breaks of serve from the Czech.
Roddick is probably out of contention for a spot in the semifinals now, but with a bankroll of $5 million for the ATP to spend he won't go home empty handed. As of late this evening, Roddick's income from the event was $95,000.