And other 2009 French Open observations...Don't worry Andy: Lacoste still loves you
I just finished watching Frenchman Gael Monfils defeat the last "American in Paris," world no. 6 Andy Roddick in straight sets at Roland Garros 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. And I realized that not only is Roddick a loser, and a sore loser at that, but a major dick.Shock to the System
But first, the shock of the century in terms of tennis: Rafael Nadal
lost at the French Open - and not to Roger Federer! No, the King of Clay lost on his favorite surface to a relative unknown in World No. 25, Swede Robin Soderling
(how fitting that a fellow Swede protected Bjorn Borg's record of four consecutive Roland Garros crowns from being surpassed by the young Spaniard!). How did he do it? Soderling had a game plan and he executed it perfectly. First, he served big (an essential against Nadal); second, he flattened his forehand and took the ball early so that his volleys and Nadal's serves came back at Nadal fast and harder than Chinese arithmetic - some of those Soderling forehands sounded like skull-crunching Mike Tyson punches to the head (and this was on clay, not hard courts!). This helped keep Rafa pinned behind the baseline and tactically kept him on the defensive. I mean, what's the last time you saw Nadal, who tracks down everything (with authority), flail helplessly at his opponent's shots? Add to that Soderling's natural physical gifts of being tall - which enables him, whenever he doesn't take Nadal's shots early, to adjust and handle Nadal's high-bouncing topspin shots on the baseline - and having a two-handed backhand, which is almost a requirement against Nadal's heavy groundstrokes. Much as I love the one-handed backhand (especially Federer's), it often lacks the ooomph needed to put Nadal on the defensive.
The loss really had to needle Nadal, because he really
dislikes Soderling. The world may not know much about Soderling, but Nadal sure does. Remember the ill feelings between the two in the third round of the 2007 Wimbledon tournament? Nadal beat the Swede in five sets in a delayed match that took five days to complete - 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 7-5 - by which time they had seen more than enough of each other to last a lifetime. According to San Francisco Chronicle reporter Bruce Jenkins, Nadal told the Spanish press afterwards: "He's very strange. I say hello to him seven times to his face, he never answers. He hits a lucky shot, he does not wave (the protocol gesture of apology). I thought it was me, but I asked around the locker room and almost nobody has anything nice to say about him. If I fall down, he says nothing. He touches his ass, grabs his pants, makes fun of me - very unprofessional." (To see what ticked off Rafa in that match, check out this video clip of Soderling imitating Nadal
.) So, OK, Nadal is out; but so, apparently, is a little class at the French Open. But there's still a pretty classy guy hanging around there...Federer: Class not yet dismissedAttention Deficit? Beast of Burden?
With Rafa out of the way, Roger Federer
has the most realistic chance of his career to win the French Open title that has eluded him ever since Nadal came to own la terre battue
. But Federer isn't the same Jolly Roger of years past; he's mortal now, losing to or being tested by players other than those named Djokovic, Nadal, Murray or his old Argentine nemesis David Nalbandian - people like Radek Stepanek, Giles Simon and Guillermo Canas. It's almost a distraction and a burden for him now. How else to explain dropping two sets against a skillful, but erratic, 31-year-old Tommy Haas? Still, Federer being Federer, with a Will To Triumph and a mental toughness matched only by Rafa Nadal, Roger came back from a 30-40, 3-4 third set deficit to reel off nine straight games and a 5-set win over a mentally deflated Haas and advance to a quarter-final match against the player he beat in last year's semi-final, French favorite Gael Monfils
...who defeated last American hopeful Andy Roddick in straight sets in the fading light of Suzanne Lenglen Court at Roland Garros. Monfils: Long 'n' lean retrieving machineParis: City of Lights...and Lightweights
I watched this match, and while, yes, the light was fading and Andy complained about it, it's funny how his supposed inability to "see" the ball didn't affect his opponent's ability to see the ball. Apparently, it was only dark on Roddick's side of the court. Hmmmm, it didn't seem to alter the quality of play at last year's Wimbledon final - you know, the Federer-Nadal final that's been called the match of the century. What I'm leading up to, of course, is the point of view I've had for years about the brash Texan with the big serve: he's a dick. Fellow Texan George W. Bush was called a Cowboy Diplomat, and I see Roddick's game as nothing but Cowboy Tennis. Big rocket serve, big crushing forehand, nothing else. All shock and awe. He's never added to that arsenal. Though he's been through a slew of coaches who've worked on improving his backhand (the one-handed slice backhand just doesn't work for him) and on encouraging him to come to net (he only seems to do it when he's down and panicking - and he still looks pretty awkward there), it's never happened. Because he's a stubborn Texan, like George W. If he can't win with power and bullying his opponent around the court, he's just not interested. He gets flustered, hot, and bothered.
And that's what he came up against in French super-athlete Gael Monfils. World no. 10 Monfils isn't much of a tactician, and I think he lacks mental toughness outside of his comfort zone (which is Roland Garros), but the guy can outrun just about anyone on the tour not
named Rafael Nadal. He gets to everything
. In fact, he used to wear himself out by trying to retrieve EVERYTHING his opponents threw at him. But he's noticeably muscled up his stringbean physique of late and grown mentally tougher as well. He nullified Roddick's serve (Monfils actually out-aced Roddick, if you can believe that!), and basically forced Roddick to hit more than one or two shots on his service games. That means volleying, and Roddick doesn't like long volleys because they require him to think and not just wail away at the ball and try to blow his opponents off the court. Monfils being a grinder, that forced Roddick into a lot of unforced errors and lost service games. Plus, well, Monfils has a beautiful touch at the net; some of those angled drop shots recall McEnroe back in his heyday, artistic strokes worthy of a Left Bank painter.
Oh, almost forgot: Monfils also out-bullied the Mighty Mopin' Power Ranger, hitting 45 winners to Roddick’s 18 and 17 aces to the Rocket Man's 4.
But what really got to me watching this match was listening to how rude and nasty Roddick was. After losing the second set, he yelled at a ball boy, "Yellow drink. I want a yellow drink. GET ME A YELLOW DRINK, GOT THAT!!!" Nice sportsmanship there, superstar. Then he yelled at the French umpire, "Don't tell ME that it's light enough out. I'm the one OUT THERE PLAYING. So don't you TELL ME ANYTHING."
What a total dickhead. When Monfils grinned after watching Roddick once again berate the chair umpire, Roddick shouted at him "You're not that good to get that cocky!" (Ummm, yes he is, Andy - and you're
sure not gonna wipe that smile off his face!) And I'm sure Mr. Bluster didn't like Monfils working the decidely biased home crowd. But doesn't Roddick do exactly the same thing back in his
house, the U.S. Open. And Andy, as your fellow American redneck Kid Rock would say, "You think I'm cocky, and I say 'What?'/It ain't cocky motherfucker if you back it up." Unfortunately, Roddick's mouth is just like his on-court game: all bullying power with no subtlety. He's got one U.S. Open title and nothing else since to back it up. Besides, if he won this match, he'd have had to face Federer, who's 18-2 lifetime against the brash baseliner. So go gently into the night Andy - and shut up or back it up. If not with results, then with class, like Roger.
Labels: andy roddick, french open, gael monfils, raphael nadal, robin soderling, roger federer, tennis