“Rodd-ick! Rodd-ick! Rodd-ick!”
Surprising as it may have been to hear full-throated chants echo through the often-staid Centre Court stands – 15,000 or so voices rising as one in the moments after last year’s Wimbledon final concluded with a 16-14 fifth set – what was most remarkable was the name the spectators chose to yell.
They did not salute the champion, Roger Federer, who claimed his sixth title at Wimbledon and record-breaking 15th Grand Slam title overall. Instead, they hailed the runner-up, Andy Roddick, who dropped to 1-4 in major finals, including 0-3 at the All England Club – each loss against Federer.
“Rodd-ick! Rodd-ick! Rodd-ick!”
When Wimbledon begins Monday, Roddick will resume his quest for a championship that would mean quite a lot to him, one that barely eluded him in 2009.
Roddick served impeccably and was broken only once, in the 77th and last game of Federer’s 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14 victory – the longest match and longest fifth set, in terms of games, in Grand Slam final history. And don’t forget this: Roddick injured his hip when he tumbled to the court in the fourth set.
“I’m always anxious going into Wimbledon. I don’t think that’s going to change,” said the 27-year-old Roddick, who lives in Austin, Texas. “I don’t go in with any sense of entitlement or any sense of anything like that. I’m excited to get onto a surface that I actually feel that I can impose my game on a little bit more.”
Or as Roddick’s coach, Larry Stefanki, put it: “Grass is what you’d call his bread-and-butter.”
Roddick’s fastest-on-tour serve only gets speedier and tougher for opponents to handle on the slick surface used at Wimbledon. It’s a formula similar to one Venus and Serena Williams employ to dominate opponents at this Grand Slam tournament, divvying up eight of the past 10 Wimbledon championships.
Roddick did win the 2003 U.S. Open, but he is still waiting for No. 1 at Wimbledon, and his oh-so-close calls only have increased his intention to do well at the All England Club.
Stefanki cautioned, though, that Roddick needs to focus on the here-and-now at the start of the tournament.
“The fire, the drive, the internal flame is going to be there until he climbs the peak. But you’ve got to find a balance,” Stefanki said. “That’s the last thing you want to think about – winning a major when you’ve got seven rounds to win. Until you get to that seventh match, you’d better put that on the back burner. I mean, way on the back burner.”
There are plenty of players who could block the No. 5-seeded Roddick’s path, including the top-seeded Federer, who has reached a record seven straight Wimbledon finals. The only loss in those seven? That came in ’08 against nemesis, Rafael Nadal.
Nadal did not defend his Wimbledon championship last year, withdrawing a few days before the tournament began because of painful tendinitis in both knees.
Nadal’s is but one of several significant returns anticipated at the All England Club in 2010:
•Justine Henin, who owns seven Grand Slam titles but none from Wimbledon, will be back for the first time since 2007, having rejoined the tour this season after a 20-month hiatus;
•Kim Clijsters, a two-time U.S. Open champion and twice a semifinalist at Wimbledon, hasn’t played at the grass-court major tournament since 2006, owing to a 21/2-year semi-retirement, during which she got married and became a mother;
•Those waits are all rather quaint compared to that of Queen Elizabeth II is expected to attend Wimbledon next Thursday, her first visit to the tournament since 1977.
That was the last time a British woman (Virginia Wade) won Wimbledon.