The Other Side of the Coin

Australian Open 2010,Tennis
By Matthew Zemek, January 26th, 2010
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

There will be a time and place to celebrate the winners of the first two men’s singles quarterfinals at the 2010 Australian Open. (In the next post, actually!) But one can’t comment on two riveting spectacles at Melbourne Park without addressing the acute agony of the valiant competitors who lost on Tuesday.

Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal, for all they’ve achieved in the sport they love so much, were left to wonder how their best efforts - not their best technical performances, but their best and most spirited fights - could lead to such physical pain combined with disappointingly early exits from Australia.

Roddick, the seventh seed, lost to 14th-seeded Marin Cilic in the day’s first quarterfinal, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3. Nadal, the No. 2 seed and the defending champion, lost the first two sets against fifth-rated Andy Murray before retiring in the third set of a match the Scotsman led, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 3-0. While Cilic and Murray entirely earned their spots in the first men’s semifinal on Thursday night, the recognizable opponents they defeated could tell plentifully powerful tales in defeat.

Winner Poker

For Roddick, the nature of his loss had to sting in a larger context. Roddick, a 27-year-old who has been through so many tennis wars in his career, has long been a victim of terrible timing. If Roddick had hit his prime years even two years earlier than he actually did, the American likely would have captured at least one Wimbledon, if not two. However, this mainstay in the top 10 on the ATP Tour just happened to develop at the same time that a Swiss fellow named Roger Federer discovered how to blend mental toughness with a full arsenal of shots. As a result, Federer would win multiple Wimbledon, U.S. Open, and Australian Open titles at Roddick’s expense.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story about the terrible timing of Roddick’s lucrative but trophy-poor tennis life.

Bad timing also touched Roddick’s 2005 Wimbledon final against Federer. With Roddick playing his very best tennis and leading the Swiss superstar 4-2 in the third set of a match tied at one set apiece, the skies opened up in suburban London and caused a rain delay. Given a crucial break, Federer regrouped and dominated when play resumed. Because of the weather, Roddick lost one of his best chances to claim a Wimbledon championship.

But an even more excruciating loss would come four years later.

Roddick - at 8-all in the fifth set - had 15-40 on Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon final. Just one more point would have enabled this Texas resident to serve for the crown he had always coveted. But his Swiss foe played two authoritative points, held for 9-8, and eventually won the third set, 16-14, to deny Roddick yet again. A hard-working athlete proved to be in the right place, but not at the wrong time.

Earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles...

This brings us to the loss to Cilic.

Roddick was playing an opponent who had just come off a 4-hour, 38-minute win in the fourth round of this event. Heading into this match, Roddick had a good chance to win by virtue of his physical fitness developed under coach Larry Stefanki.

Instead, Roddick’s body betrayed him at the wrong time. Early in the second set, he asked for an ATP trainer. It was revealed after the match that he felt numbness in two of his fingers along with an achy shoulder that took a lot of pop from his fearsome serve. The lack of punch in Roddick’s groundstrokes was evident against Cilic, who - though inconsistent - was able to lift his level of play in the fifth set.

Basically, if Andy Roddick didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all.

And then there was Rafael Nadal’s sad end against his rival from Scotland.

Nadal and Murray played two thrilling sets of tennis that were closely contested and turned on a handful of points. Nadal broke Murray in each of the first two sets, only to get broken back in the very next game. Murray played the best major tournament match of his career (which is saying something for the No. 4 player in the world), but even when he took a two-set lead, Nadal - who moved fluidly around the court - still had a shot to create a protracted battle. If anyone could come from two sets down, the six-time Major champion could.

Get $1000 Bonus on Ladbrokes Poker

But then, his dream - and his Australian Open title defense - died.

Nadal felt a twinge in his knee - which has been affected by tendonitis in recent months - on the second point of the second game of the third set. The Spaniard tried to make a go of it, but when Murray held for 3-0, this decorated performer felt there was little use trying to continue. Just when Nadal had seemingly regained a strong measure of health, his balky body spoke up at exactly the wrong time.

Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal have nice problems compared to many, but that doesn’t change the fact that they endured very difficult losses in a tournament they hoped to own.


No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.