Friday, June 24, 2011

Roddick Still Has A Window, Albeit Small

He's prematurely gone from the Wimbledon draw, but that doesn't mean it's all over for Andy Roddick.

I remember sitting in front of Andy Roddick at a press conference at Indian Wells earlier this year, listening to the 28-year-old talk about his chances of winning another Slam. It was a typical Roddick presser: jokes were being cracked, insight was being delivered, and a sardonic stream of witticisms was flying.

Even though the mood was comical in the room, Roddick was quick to get serious when talking about his chances. Under the 'right conditions,' Roddick feels that Slam No. 2 is a possibility.

It got me wondering: what are the 'right conditions?'

You would think that the 'right conditions' would be the very grass that was growing under Roddick's feet during his three previous Wimbledon final runs.

But those conditions, once again, haven't suited Roddick's game. He crashed out yesterday, losing his first of 8 career matches against Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.

It's hard for a lot of us to imagine Andy Roddick winning another Grand Slam, given his age and inability to crack the code of tennis' "trivalry," but Roddick still doesn't think the book is closed on him. This spring in California, he felt he still had a chance to break through for a second Slam, and I doubt he feels any differently today, even with the sting of his second consecutive early Wimbledon departure still burning him up.

So, what now?

Chris Evert thinks she knows what's best for Andy.

"It's his last hurrah," says Evert. "He's got to sit down and he's got to realize that 'okay, I'll give myself two to three great years, but I've got to tweak a few things.'" says Evert. "He's got to keep it simple and get back to the big serve and the big aggressive forehand."

It's the same advice that Roddick has been getting from the tennis cognoscenti for years now, but something isn't clicking in the Roddick camp. Roddick's propensity for defense suits his personality -- he's a boots-on-the-ground soldier-type of dude -- but does it suit his game? And if it doesn't suit his game, why isn't his coach FORCING him to be more aggressive?

My advice for Andy would be to start with another clean slate. I know this sounds harsh, but Mr. Roddick should seek a new coach for the "last hurrah" that Chris Evert speaks of. Nothing against Larry Stefanki, who is an absolutely fantastic coach and tennis person, but A-rod seems to get energized off of new coaching relationships.

The evidence: Roddick responded well when Brad Gilbert took the reigns and went on to win his one and only Slam; Roddick was jazzed when Jimmy Connors took the helm for a brief stint and he went on reach the 2006 US Open final; he was jazzed when Stefanki took over and he nearly won Wimbledon.

Why not look for one more shake up? A new coach -- or reuniting with an old one? -- could be the tonic that could pump some wind into Roddick's sails.

Don't worry about Stefanki. He's a world-class coach and his services would be widely sought after. This isn't about him, anyway. This is about Roddick getting the most out of himself as he nears the final act of his career.

He's got a lot to give, you can sense it.

He just needs to find a way to give it.

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