Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn Decker’
Quarterfinal Loss Post-Match Press Conference
(This video clip is audio-only with a picture of Andy so that it could be uploaded to YouTube. It’s a slightly better way of presenting audio content. Hope it’s not too misleading.)
From the start it was clear that he was edgy. The faces of his support crew were all etched with concern. And for good reason. Though he was loathe to admit it in the post-match press conference, his ankle injury severely limited his ability tonight. His movement was okay, but his power off the ground was abysmal. His groundstrokes had no bite, and his serve speed was dramatically lower.
Istomin, on the other hand, was reading all of Roddick’s shots well: serves, approaches, and ground strokes. He always knew where to be to defend against Andy’s shots. In the press room, Andy was better than we thought he would be. But he was definitely a pained man after this loss.
Andy Roddick had absolutely no right to win his opening match last night at the SAP Open. Denis Kudla had outplayed him at every turn, swinging freely and hitting “nuthin’ but lines” for the better part of the night. But as Denis’ last groundie sailed long deep in the third set, Andy could finally raise his arms in satisfaction. The deed was done.
For Bill Rapp, the tournament director, this wasn’t the preferred narrative for the evening. Andy is a fan favorite in San Jose, and is also one of the tournament’s marquee players alongside Gael Monfils. Even with a hamstring injury that cut short his Australian Open campaign, Andy was pretty much just supposed to show up for his match, play to the crowd, and win in straight sets. There was one minor problem with that storyline: nobody told any of it to Denis Kudla.
Kudla secured his place in the main draw as a qualifier. After making it through 3 qualifying round matches, he had a tough 3 set match win over his junior nemesis Jack Sock. It was a bit of payback, for sure. This was the same Jock Sock who he lost to in the US Open junior final in 2010. And the same Jack Sock who is the current US Open mixed doubles champion with Melanie Oudin. Payback and a good win… but still only a first round match, setting him up to play Roddick for his next round.
Denis’ match record for ATP events in 2011 was 2-2. His match record for 2012 was 0-1. Roddick’s injury had left him short of practice time on the court. But still, he is Andy Roddick: perennial top 10′er on the ATP tour. Though he has struggled a bit with injuries and his game, this particular match was never supposed to be in doubt. It was going to be a good hit against a solid player that would help him work his way into the tournament. Nothing more.
Again, nobody told any of this to Kudla.
By the time they appeared on court for the match, the audience was ready, the media was ready, everyone was ready to see Roddick fire aces and forehands en route to a straight sets win. Kudla looked as if he might oblige, as his first service game was a bit nervy, lasting about 8 minutes. Finally though, he got the hold. Then, the guy who nobody told how the match was supposed to unfold, started playing some of the most composed and dangerous tennis of the day.
He was swinging freely on both sides, forehand and backhand. His serve, while not up to Roddick’s level, was more than enough to keep Andy from attacking. It seemed there was no way Andy could find to get a break on this kid. He tried high topspin forehands, followed by low slices, followed by drive backhands, followed by more slices. Anything he could do to get Denis’ out of his groove. Nothing worked!
Adding insult to injury for Andy was the fact that all of Denis’ shots were landing deep and on the lines. Not next to the lines. On the lines. Over and over and over again. Andy sometimes looked toward those of us courtside with glances of “Are you freakin’ kidding me?” If not for his ability to dig himself out of holes with his serve, Andy would have gone down easily in the first set by a couple of breaks. As it was, he ended up losing the set in a tiebreak. It was an odd set of tennis from a guy ranked well above his opponent (17 as compared to 203). He was being outplayed by a younger, hungrier, and more aggressive player.
As Andy walked to his chair at the end of the breaker, a woman from the crowd yelled, “Maybe now you’ll be more aggressive.” OUCH
Second set? More of the same until the moment when Andy rolled his ankle and took a bad tumble on the court, grabbing his leg and crying out in obvious pain. It was a scary moment. As he laid there, injured, in pain, frustrated by another potential long-term injury on the heels of the hamstring injury, and frustrated in the moment by an opponent who wasn’t going to let him show up, hit a few balls, and go through to the next round. This was a dogfight he hadn’t expected or wanted.
A chair was brought out eventually and Andy was helped up into it. After some discussion as to the best course of action (play on or retire), his ankle was treated and taped so he could continue playing. It didn’t look good though. I tweeted that I couldn’t imagine him finishing the match. Maybe just play a few more points and then call it a day so that he could get out of Dodge (okay, San Jose) with Brooklyn and on to his next stop.
Tennis is a funny game, though. Sometimes, match outcomes that seem pre-determined can flip on you at the drop of a hat…or turn on a dime… or turn on an ankle, as was the case with Roddick and Kudla. Andy said it best in his post-match press conference: “He (Denis) started missing more balls when I was hurt than when I could actually move”. That pretty much sums it up. Denis’ red hot game suddenly seemed to cool off just enough to allow the injured Roddick to get back on his feet. Literally. Andy finished Denis’ service game, and then held serve to force the tiebreak.
With the finish line in sight, Denis’ finally felt the nerves at 4-5 (on serve) in the tiebreak with a rare double fault. This from a kid who had barely missed any serves the entire match, handing Andy a two set points. All it took was one, and the fight was on.
The media was informed at that time that Monfils was withdrawing from the tournament, and was available for questions. So we high-tailed it back to the press room hoping that we would come back to find Andy cruising in the third, because obviously the rookie was not going to be able to let go of his second set tiebreak mistakes and would inevitably wilt under the pressure of the third set.
WRONG! With a break of Andy’s serve to go up 2-0, things looked grim. And then again, the match turned as Andy started to remember who he was. Unfortunately, Denis started to remember who he was as well. Andy’s first and second set defensiveness was replaced by more authoritative ball striking. Instead of playing cat and mouse, trying to draw an error out of Denis, he started hitting to dictate the points. And remember all of those lines that I mentioned Kudla was hitting in the first set? No mas! Balls were going long and dumping into the net. Denis’ game was trending downward as Andy’s was trending up.
“The” moment came in the 8th game. A missed short ball and a missed volley was all it took to hand Andy the break to serve out the match. It was one of the most unlikely comebacks I have ever seen. 6-7 7-6 6-4. To paraphrase Andy, he was playing from behind for the better part of two hours of tennis. Injured and frustrated, but the eventual winner.
This match wasn’t about a rookie choke, because this was no choke performance by Kudla. The expected tennis clinic from the veteran didn’t materialize in those first two sets. Denis’ came oh-so-close to winning, but just couldn’t cross the finish line in that second set tiebreak. I also don’t think it was a case of Andy’s injury affecting Denis’ match strategy either, as can often be the case. More than anything else I think this match turned because Andy didn’t want to lose, and was not going to let himself lose. PERIOD.
Call it pride of a champion or whatever. Andy stood up for himself in that match as he was being bundled out the door. I’m sure he didn’t want to go out that way: outplayed, frustrated, injured. And he didn’t. Too often in the past few years we have seen Andy losing maybe a bit too much to some of the other top guys, and we want to dismiss him. But just as statistics show the greatness of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic, Andy’s stats show some greatness as well. He may not have the power or the weapons, but he must be doing something right to have been so close to the top of the game for this long.
On this night in San Jose, everyone in attendance who saw him initially being outplayed, outhit, frustrated, and injured got a chance to see him raise his hands in satisfaction and victory at the end. And it was pretty damn impressive!