Same Ol' Andy Roddick? Not Quite
"No, that's bulls**t," he said to the chair umpire after winning his second-round match Wednesday at the Australian Open.
That's right, after winning.
Roddick continued to argue when he was shaking Thomaz Bellucci's hand after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory, and then also as he was putting his racquets down.
And then after he waved thank you to the crowd.
It's funny how different this stuff from Roddick used to seem before his classic five-set loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final last year. For most of his career, I thought Roddick was basically, well, a jerk.
Now, the antics, the sarcasm, they seem likable somehow. Or if not, at least they are defining of a player who has become likable.
It's the age (he's 27 now, nearly old-age to tennis). It's that he changed his game and stopped relying solely on a big serve, which was never going to win him another major. Just based on that effort, and on the courage he showed against Federer, he has gone from a punk not willing to make the most of his talent, to a sympathetic character.
And I do mean character.
"Normally, they see a player running full speed, they decide to at least move or catch the player. You know, I felt like he was trying out for WWE or something, just letting me go."
Is Roddick going to win another major? I don't know. But what has changed is this:
Now, he can.
The questions about Roddick are whether he can close the deal to win a tournament, whether that Federer match was too tough to overcome and whether his knee is healed.
In winning his first tournament of the year, the Brisbane International, he answered plenty. For the first time in his career, he has started a year 7-0.
But it's never without noise. On Wednesday, Roddick let a ball go as it was called out. After the replay, the ball was called in, but the umpire ruled that Roddick didn't have a play on the ball, and awarded the point to Bellucci.
After the match, Roddick watched the video to see if he was right:
"To be fair ... I was more wrong than I thought I was out on the court."
Yet the match was over a few minutes later, he had won, and he still wanted to fight. Was that about humiliating the official?
"Not intentionally,'' he said. "But you know a lot of times if the argument works itself that way, then it works itself that way."
After his match, Roddick sat down in a private talk with the three American writers -- yes, me included -- who have actually made the trip to Australia.
He talked openly, as he always does, about, well, pretty much anything.
Does he feel a sense of immediacy starting a new year this late in his career after not having won a major in nearly seven years?
"I always feel a sense of immediacy," he said. "I'm probably looking at a three-, four-year window. But I don't feel that at all."
Roddick said his fun on tour has changed over the years. In the past, the big fun was in being around the thrill of the tournament. "Now I find a lot more fun in the Xs and Os in it all."
For example, he studies what other players do on their returns of serve, instead of just doing what he used to: "Just pop it and say, 'Deal with it.' "
Roddick ran down the list of top American players, giving his opinions. Sam Querrey has lost confidence, but has all the tools. John Isner is becoming a real player. "You'd like to think'" James Blake, at 30, will still climb in the rankings.
Roddick has become a spokesperson lately, too, speaking out against the tour's scheduling demands. He then dropped off the Davis Cup team, saying it takes too much time and strain on an aging player's body, and criticizing its organizers for not considering the players' needs.
Have you ever thought about forming a players' union?
"Yeah, we've thought about it a lot,'' he said. "We've definitely talked about it. But to be fair to the new CEO (of the ATP, Adam Helfant), who I think has good intentions..."
Roddick said to force a players' union through now would undermine Helfant.
"Five years ago, it would have been the right move. But I don't feel the time is right to do that."
Well then why not at least go for a spot on the players' council, which works with the tour's governing bodies?
"I just worry about being politically correct enough for the player council-slash-you've got to be voted in."
Well, on the back side of his career now, Roddick is married and can envision life after tennis.
"I could always envision it, yeah," he said. "Every former player I talk to says they're bored as heck."
Something tells me Roddick won't let that happen to him.
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