Roddick, U.S. Kick Off March Madness With a Bang; Federer Fighting Mono
by Sean Randall | March 9th, 2008, 7:17 pm
  • 34 Comments

We are just one week in and already March Madness is living up to its name. Really, who would ever have thought Andy Roddick and Feliciano Lopez would battle for the title in Dubai, when the top players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and my man Gael Monfils were entered? Not me.

Roddick beat Lopez in final in three high quality sets, sending a very strong signal to the rest of the field that he’s back. Back from where is a good question, but as soon as the American shed the vest-wearing Jimmy Connors, his coach for the last 1.5 years, Roddick returned to his old style of pounding serves and crushing forehands to victory. Roddick stunned Nadal then Djokovic and fended off a game Lopez in the final for his biggest victory in a couple years.

Now he heads back home for U.S. masters in Indian Wells, where he’s never reached the final, and Miami. Roddick’s first match probably can’t come soon enough for the Austin native who’s on one hell of a roll at the moment, and someone no one wants to play right now.

While Roddick was busy tearing up the field and rebuilding his confidence in Dubai, what was Federer doing? Fixing his hair?? Getting his second serve ready for Pete Sampras??

The World No. 1 did make a startling revelation to the NY Times a few days back that he’s been battling mononucleosis since the end of 2007, but didn’t know it until just a few weeks ago.

I’m no medical expert and I’ve never had mono thankfully, but a few of my friends have had it and it took them 2-3 months to recover, with good days and bad days in between. And in some cases recovery can be even longer, just ask Mario Ancic who was out six months. (Hell, maybe Andy Roddick just got over mono.)

So, believe it or not, there you have the Swiss’s explanation for the recent slump. I’ll take Fed’s word for it, though I do wonder how fully recovered he really is, and if the virus will return. But what about the chicken he ate? And if Fed didn’t want to take away from Novak’s or Andy Murray’s wins as he said, why mention that you had mono now after the illness has passed? Why not just come out with it clean when you learned of the diagnosis?

Djokovic probably doesn’t care that much about the Fed mono either way. He’s still polishing his Australian Open trophy, practicing his ball bounce and getting ready for those hardball questions from Jay Leno, but Murray’s got to be boiling a little inside. The guy gets little credit for his win over a “tired” Fed a couple summers ago, and now just when he thinks he scores a legit victory, Fed comes out and says he had just gotten over mono. Great Scot, what a buzzkill. Murray should just pull out before their next match, it’s a no win anyway. He’s just snake-bitten.

Back to Fed. Bottom line is Fed’s play was deteriorating long before the mono/chicken. How else can you explain losses to last year to Canas, Volandri, Gonzalez and Nalbandian? And fact is Nadal should have taken him out in the Wimbledon final.

Fed did start 2007 in top form, then…Then he had a hit with Pete Sampras. Hmm…

Actually, maybe I can explain it. When I jokingly wrote a year ago that Sampras put a hex on Fed after their hit, maybe Pete really did do something. Maybe Pete gave Roger mono!

Let’s see, mono, also dubbed the “kissing disease”, is said to be highly contagious. Hmm…

Pete hits with Roger last year just before IW, and Roger, who was undefeated entering their practice session, slumps thereafter losing early in Indian Wells, Miami and then in Monte Carlo. Pete next hits with Roger who just came off a Masters Cup victory, and Roger becomes ill a few weeks later and he hasn’t won a title since.

Coincidence? Conspiracy? I’ll leave it there, but I think based on the timeline that until Roger gets to 15 slams he needs to avoid Pete like the plague, because he really might be the plague. And if you have to play Monday night, Roger, you might want to put on a HAZMAT suit instead of that Wimbledon blazer. Just a thought, why chance it?

But now that Fed’s allegedly healthy, with the young guys like Murray, Djokovic, etc., gaining ground and confidence by the day, he’s really going to need to focus more energy, and as much as his body allows on tennis. That means Fed, stop texting Tiger, stop attending Super Bowls and stop getting $800 hair cuts. It doesn’t appear your headed for the Andre dome, so your hair’s going to be there in 10 years, your game isn’t. Get it styled then.

About the only thing missing from the first week of March was a Williams sister matchup. Oh wait, we did get one. In case you missed it, and I’m sure many of you did, Serena and Venus had a little sisterly showdown in the semifinals of Bangalore of all places. It was their first meeting in two years and of course it went three sets, this one won by younger Serena in a third set tiebreak. Serena, who now leads Venus 8-7 in their head-to-head, closed the tournament today beating Patty Schnyder in the final for her first tournament win in nearly a year.

Sam Querrey completed the American weekend sweep nabbing his first career title in Las Vegas beating qualifier Kevin Anderson in the final. The 6-foot-7 Kevin Anderson was trying to follow the path of Kei Nishikori and Steven Darcis as unknowns to win on U.S. soil this season. Nice job Sam, that’s one more title this year than Federer and Nadal combined!

All in all, quite a start to March, especially for American hopes, can’t wait to see what develops ahead at Indian Wells and Miami. The men’s draw comes on Tuesday for IW.


Also Check Out:
Stop the Madness
Noah Part of March Madness
Serena Williams: In 2009 I Went Out With a Bang, I Came In With a Bang Tonight
No Joke, a Fish Swallows Federer Whole in Indian Wells Desert
Federer Rules; Replay on Deck

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34 Comments for Roddick, U.S. Kick Off March Madness With a Bang; Federer Fighting Mono

Shital Green Says:

A lot of sarcasm, Sean.
The “mono” conversation was not really worthy of epic attention. I found it childish.

The real question confronting Federer is, “Can I shut up my critics by winning one or both MS in American soil?” Honestly, I have doubt about it. Fed’s return does not look imminent any time soon.

The “slump” that you mention has more to do with his deteriorating composure than with his skills, “I am still the Number 1,” as well as the distraction caused by his celebrity status (hair, Vogue cover, People’s sexist man, and what not). It seems like when he recites that line, he is already feeling that the No. 1 position is slipping away by day, “Can I say that one more time before I am ousted?” “Should I really believe that I am going to be really dethroned?” Fed feels it there are not many days more left to recite that claim. At times, he seems to think that he is THE rightful heir to the throne for LIFE and finds it unbearable to be challenged by new comers, albeit talented.

More important than proving he can retain his position is whether he can regain his calm composure. Fed is regressing toward what he was in the late 90s. Or, is it a return of the 1998-99′s impatient Federer? That should worry him more than the young players’ improvement, which he does not want to recognize. Fed is losing and will continue to lose small and big matches until he regains his 2006 composure and unpredictability, two of his unrivaled weapons in the tennis history. His skill is matched by many others today, and that skill has taken a downward trajectory because of the loss of the composure, which could be seen now both on and off court.

As for Andy, he will have to show a couple of more times what he was able to do in Dubai to claim that he is better than what he was in 2003. Dubai was certainly a big step, but he’s gotta repeat. And I believe he is so much encouraged by this victory, especially after felling No.2 and No. 3 in straight sets, that he will look more formidable come IW and Miami than we have seen him in the recent days. Now he seems to have regained the belief that he can, and that matters.

To recall, last year, Indian Wells and Miami marked the beginning of Federer’s fall and Djoko’s rise. Because of that, this year, these tournaments deserve more attention as there is a greater stake and greater curiosity about who will fall and who will rise this time around. And Roddick definitely has a chance to shine, and I would like to see Nalby, Nole, Nadal, and Murray and one or two rising young guns in the quarter and semi final rounds. It will be interesting to watch if Roddick repeats the feat by taking these big names down.


TD Says:

It’s been a great week for American tennis, Roddick and Serena both won titles and young Sam Queery won his first ATP title. Unfortunately the Bryan brothers must have caught the same sickness as Federer because they have not won a final yet this year. ouch!

Quote-”what was Federer doing? Fixing his hair??”

LOL At $800 a pop.


Naydal Says:

The scary part is that all it will take is Federer buckling down again. The fact is that there still isn’t one player that truly threatens him. The best players can hope for (as Djokovic’s recent comments on Murray’s win illustrates) is to just never miss, retrieve every shot, and (Djokovic conveniently left this part out) hope Federer has an off day.


Zola Says:

Sean
great article and quite funny. Great points by Shital too.

I take Fed’s word too but I am very confused, because just before Dubai he was talking about how hard he had trained in Dubai. I read that people with mono have to avoid sports because they risk rupture of the spleen. But he played semifinal in AO and trained in Dubai and played as well. I think he plans to play IW and Miami too. Seeing how Ancic was out for a year, this seems a bit confusing.

A win is a win. Nothing can take away the wins from Djoko or Murray. Federer won Nadal in Wimbledon after Nadal’s knee was injured in the 4th set. He was ahead in that set and who knows what could have happened if he was not injured ( or if he was not forced o play 5 matches in 7 days!)….no one takes away that win from federer.

Well, great week for Americans, Rodick, Serena and now Querry. I am so happy for him . He won his first ATP title.

As for “is Andy in the race with the big guys”, I would say let’s see how he does in master series and grand slams. he is about 3000 points behind Djoko. he needs 3 slams or 6 master series to get in that mix and to ma that’s a long shot in his age. But seeing him so happy and motivated is great. At least he doesn’t need to bully players to win. he showed that he can win with his racquet.


Zola Says:

Sean,
me and a friend on tennis.com ( bjornino) said the same thing about Pete’s effect of Fed’s game last year. We called it “the curse of the pistol Pete” (TCPP).


sheila Says:

boy, everyone is getting on the “lets put federer down” bandwagon. all i know is i watch a lot of tennis and i think djokovic calls for the trainer more than any other player. he’s either tired or he can’t breath and what many consider confidence, i c as total unadulterated arrogance. he won the austrailian open and kudos to him, but didn’t he play in another tournament and was knocked out early then complained he was tired. federer is my favorite player, but out of everyone, nadal seems 2b the only 1 who never makes excuses 4 any losses he has. sadly, i2 think federers days of dominance r at an end and nadal, w/clay court comin on will take over and then djokovic will follow. hopeful thought–i hope federer bounces back and kicks all their ass’. nothing wrong w/fantasizing.


Zola Says:

Shiela
I for one don’t want to put Federer down and Djokovic is my least favorite player. But Federer’s explanations just don’t make sense to me at all. I know they can’t say the whole story somethimes because of the competetion etc., but the part they choose to tell has to make sense. Anyway, I hope whatever it is is over soon and I too, want to see a healthy federer on the court.

I am not sure if Federer’s days of domination are over so soon. he still has lots of tennis left in him. I think all this flu/mono etc…was a bit unfortunate and I am waiting to see how a healthy Fed would compete.

well, I am a Nadal fan too and happy to see another one here. It is true he never makes excuses and is always respectful to other players. I love his calm and happy personality. btw, I saw NK in the other thread saying that Fed was the only person backing Davydenko. That is not right. It was Rafa. months ago, when the controversy started, he said that Davydenko was innocent and also what they did to him (fine for lack of effort) was ridiculus. What Federer said was that he wished it was over. ATP should announce if Davydenko is guilty or not.


Ellen Mooring Says:

Love it, Sean. Great humor. R. F. deserves some long-awaited scrutiny.


Larry Says:

I guess Fed forgot the Laver credo – “If you’re not fit, default; if you step out on court, you’re 100% and that’s all there is to it.” Maybe the $800 haircuts cause one to make excuses like the Williams sisters?


Lucy Says:

“Maybe the $800 haircuts cause one to make excuses like the Williams sisters?”

Sorry to get off topic, but what excuses do the Williams sisters make? If they’re injured, they’re injured. Plus do people have to clump them together? That’s like me insulting all the players whose name ends with OVA or insulting both the Bryan brothers.


rogers twin sister Says:

Sean, for a “journalist,” you don’t read much or watch the players’ interviews, do you? If you did, you’d have seen and heard Federer say that he was told he must have eaten some bad chicken, but he countered with, “I never ate ANY chicken.” Let’s not go for the cheap shots, Sean; they’re still not winning you any kudos.


I like tennis bullies not tennis sissies Says:

ut oh now all the Federer fanboys are all getting mad at Sean!

– I guess Fed forgot the Laver credo – “If you’re not fit, default; if you step out on court, you’re 100% and that’s all there is to it.” Maybe the $800 haircuts cause one to make excuses like the Williams sisters? –

federer: sissy!


jane Says:

This article is FULL of irony; come people, laugh a little.

Shital, you make some good points. These MS tourneys do mean a lot, perhaps especially for the top three; with Djok having 850 pts to defend & Nadal having 625, Fed has everything to gain (he has a measly 80 pts to defend). It’ll be an interesting couple of weeks for tennis fans.

And of course we’ll be wondering if the two Andys can make a dent at these tourneys too.

Should be fun.


jane Says:

Shital say re: Fed’s composure: “It seems like when he recites that line, he is already feeling that the No. 1 position is slipping away by day, “Can I say that one more time before I am ousted?””

Make one wonder for sure: “methinks the [guy] doth protest too much.”

Perhaps his exo against Pete will tell us much about where Roger’s fitness is at.

BTW – Great weekend for the Americans – my congrats to Sam on his first ATP title and Andy on his comeback. Serena is not my fave, but it’s been a while since she’s won a tourney, too, so kudos to her.


jane Says:

Sorry, that should be “Shital says” and “makes one wonder” in the above post – don’t know what’s up with my subject verb agreement. Doh.


tennisontherocks Says:

I like sarcasm..sometimes my fav players will get picked on in the process..but thats the part of the game :) so keep it up, Sean !!!

I take their word when Fed team (or any other player) says anything about mono (or any other injury). But disclosure of athlete injuries is a tricky issue. There is never a good time for to say it. If you say it after a loss, then you are in danger of discrediting your opponent and being a sore loser. If you say it after a big win, then you can be accused of rubbing salt on opponents wounds. If you say it in off-season, some will call you attention grabbing, sympathy seeking media whore. All pros have nagging injuries. But they play through it. Thats part of the tough job that pays their bills (and some do get paid well).

back to Roger: he looses 2 matches to highly talented youngster and people talk about a ‘slump’. Thats actually says a lot about what he has achieved in past 4 years. The era where he dominates tennis from Jan/November is over. Last year, he won 3 slams, but threw in various spotty weeks. As the time goes by, those ‘bad’ days will grow in number too. Roger is looking at long career ahead. I think (and hope) that he will reach lot of milestones in these years and set some new standards. But there will a good number of disappointing losses too. Now either we can cry a river about these losses or crack some sarcastic jokes about it :) I prefer the latter option.


SadSmiles Says:

Well, I don’t know why every1 is calling this as Roger’s slump, which I don’t agree, considering his achievements in past few year. I think he is in his 2nd phase of his playing career. And it will be interesting to see how this year will shape up. I think Roger has a chance to win the FO, Go Roger!!! My “wish” pick list for FO Roger,David Ferrer,or Almagro. Hmm Nadal – you are out, my gut feeling.


penise Says:

It will be insteresting to see if Nadal can defend all his dirtball points, or if his foot will be a problem. HIs coach said the key for Rafa is ending the points earlier, which is hard to do on clay. Anyone have any insights on that issue?


Von Says:

It’s been a great week for American tennis. Congrats to Andy, Serena and Sam Querry. Maybe we’ll get more TV coverage in the future, especially since it seems that American tennis has only been dormant for a while, but has now sprung ahead in springtime and daylight savings time – Spring forward, Fall backward.


Skorocel Says:

penise said: “HIs coach said the key for Rafa is ending the points earlier, which is hard to do on clay. Anyone have any insights on that issue?”

Personally, I don’t think he can change his game that much. It has always relied on his UE ratio being lower that the opponent’s, and changing his game would mean more attacking – which would in the end mean more UEs from the Spaniard (and also more passing opportunities from his opponents)…


jane Says:

I think Rafa could change his game on hardcourts; he’s shown he can do it on grass, by playing much more of an attacking style. Why couldn’t he do this on clay too? Use drop shots (really clay is the best place for this oft-troublesome shot), come in more, hit the lines. It’s possible, and Rafa is always working on his game. He’s improved his serve which could still be even better. Anyhow, that’s my thoughts on Rafa’s potential “potential.”


lines Says:

how ironic is it that as soon as nadal gets a shot at really zoning in on number one, Roddick decides to fire his coach and step up like its 2003. tennis is awesome.


Polo Says:

Federer lost in the Australian Open and in Dubai then everybody says he is on a slump and is a downhill slide. In that context, the top three players are all in a slump. Nadal has not won this year either. And Djokovic has not reached another final since the Australian Open.


Leo Says:

I wondered why Rog would reveal his illness at this point. I am thinking that he is just setting the expectations low for IW and Miami as it is very unlikely that he will be at full strength. Mono can linger for long.

I guess he’s not confident in his tennis right now.

Larry – I agree, Fed did remind me of the Williamses (who have done this sort of thing many times) when he went on about Murray’s game. I was very disappointed. I hope he learned from all the criticism.

I hope


jane Says:

I don’t know what others thought, but it seemed to me that Federer looked very fit and healthy during the exhibition match last night; he ran down some fast, sharply angled balls and served well.

Obviously Federer wasn’t digging as deep as he will have to in the forthcoming matches that “matter”. However, he wasn’t sweating profusely either, and he did not look fatigued, considering, as McEnroe pointed out, he had just arrived in NYC only 2 days before after a 24 hr flight and major jetlag.

So we’ll soon see if Federer is fully recovered from the mono, but if the X/O was any kind of sign, he seemed healthy and back on track. What did others think?


Zola Says:

Jane,
actually at the end of the second set fed seemed quite sweaty. Sampras did not sweat at all. But I guess as you said, this is just an exhibition and they were just going to have fun. Although I was 200% sure Fed would win this match to make a point after two losses.

Polo
I think those who say it, compare Fed’s results to his own. Last yera he won AO and Dubai , this year he didn’t. For Rafa, it was a better result, because he made the semis in AO and he retained his points in Dubai and he is not injured. That’s good enough for me. Djoko won the AO and was out in Semis in Dubai, Lots of improvements compared to last year.

But all in all, I don’t like it when a loss becomes a major disaster by the media and a win becomes an epic glory. Those are just to sell stories, so don’t even take them seriously and keep supporting your man. Didn’t he lose to Canas and Volandri and then won Wimbledon, USOpen and lost to Nalbandian twice and then won Shanghai? He came back with a huge serve, alomost Sampras-like. I wonder what expects us in Indian Wells and Miami. I have learned not to underestimate Federer at all.


I like tennis bullies not tennis sissies Says:

tennisx trunk-
2. Justin Gimelstob
The Gimel-blogger turns on the flamethrower in his SI.com column, roasting fellow SI writer Jon Wertheim and Tennis.com’s Peter Bodo for slagging Roddick. How did Tennis-X miss out on that love?
————-

easy. tennisx is not held in high regard the way bodo and wertheim are.

tennis-x -sissies!


Von Says:

I like tennis bullies not tennis sissies:

“Justin Gimelstob
The Gimel-blogger turns on the flamethrower in his SI.com column, roasting fellow SI writer Jon Wertheim and Tennis.com’s Peter Bodo for slagging Roddick. How did Tennis-X miss out on that love?”

Do you have the link to Justin’s column? I am amazed that Roddick was lumped together with Djokovic as one of the ‘most disliked Players’. Au contraire, Roddick is much loved and respected by his peers and the tennis world. As I’ve stated before, it’s all a matter of perception coupled with media bias. :)


Von Says:

jane:

“However, he wasn’t sweating profusely either, and he did not look fatigued, considering, as McEnroe pointed out, he had just arrived in NYC only 2 days before after a 24 hr flight and major jetlag.”

Yes, he looked pretty fit to me. I suppose the mono has disappeared,. and a thing of the past. Makes me wonder though.


jane Says:

As Zola points out, it probably wasn’t quite as physically draining as a “serious” match would be, so this week at IW should really show if Roger’s illness has subsided.

I expect he’ll do well at the Pacific Life, and will really push himself either way, as he will want to shake off this bad press & his couple of losses (which is really not much after all). If it’s really hot, that might trouble him, add to the mono-fatigue, unless he’s really over it.


johnnhoj Says:

Very happy that Roddick and Connors have parted. The Connors-like on-court vitriol is just not necessary. Andy can become an outstanding player if he improves his movement on the court. He’s been tippy-toeing too much these past couple of years, instead of taking the ball earlier. For too long he’s waited for the ball to sit up during rallies just to make weak-angled shots that don’t cause damage, resulting in often ineffective net approaches (as well as prolonged grinding). That gave his opponent time to pick spots on the court to pass him (due largely to his poor court coverage). He doesn’t chase down very many balls, and he gives up on drop shots before the first bounce.
Surely he’s reassessing his game in this regard.


Von Says:

johnnhoj:

“He doesn’t chase down very many balls, and he gives up on drop shots before the first bounce.
Surely he’s reassessing his game in this regard.’

I think he has been following Gilbert’s strategy, wherein Gilbert felt that Andy should stay far back behind the baseline and hit back the balls, but not hit out to avoid unforced errors. This however, is a strategy for someone who is an excellent mover, which Andy is not. Andy now seems to be reassessing his game and is making some changes, small ones, but in the right direction. Gilbert’s strategy was ‘surf and turf’. Hit a big serve and use the forehand, but that only worked with some players, and caused Andy to neglect his all-court game. It’s not too late for him to change, which he is doing, and his new strategy should begin to translate into wins in the future. His wins will give him the much needed zest and confidence to believe in himself, which he has lost in the past 3-4 years.


jane Says:

Von,

Don’t know if you ever found the link to Gimelstob’s article?

I came across it inadvertently today so here it is:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/justin_gimelstob/03/10/defending.roddick/


Von Says:

jane:

“Don’t know if you ever found the link to Gimelstob’s article?”

No, I didn’t. Thanks for remembering. It’s a well-written article by Justin and I agree with him that all the stupid criticism of Andy is overly unjustified. The usual media hype when their writing juices are dried up. Why not write an article on Roddick who will always produce an eye-catching headline.

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