Saturday, 4 July 2009

In Praise of A-Rod: Andy Roddick's Character, and his Destiny

'I can play some tennis sometimes...' Such was Andy Roddick's customary light touch at yesterday's post-match press conference, his humour maybe spiced with a mild urge to throw a jab at the monomaniacal British press. I was totally delighted by Roddick's semi-final win over Andy Murray, because Roddick is one of my favourite contemporary sportsmen.
He plays a powerful game with good aggression and energy, maybe lacking all the finesse and range that's needed to be one of the greats, but his best yesterday was certainly too much for Murray, who had clearly been expected to walk this particular match. Moreover, Roddick is a real guy - he has a foursquareness to him, as opposed to the perennial schoolboyishness that seems to be the defining characteristic of top British tennis players, be they from Oxford or Glasgow. And to top it all Roddick is really, really funny, capable of cracking up a room. (His immemorial remarks in 2005 about wanting to win Wimbledon primarily in order to check out what Maria Sharapova would wear to the champions' ball were the first I heard of this particular gift of his.)
Sadly I no more believe that Roddick can defeat Roger Federer tomorrow than I believed Alan Shearer could save Newcastle from relegation, despite their similar reserves of aggression, guyness and good humour. (Cockneys, of course, believe Shearer is entirely humourless, because they themselves are so effing hilarious...) But Federer has been awesome this past fortnight, and has got Roddick's measure of old, and (unlike Murray) won't be distracted for long by any variations of game that Roddick has to offer. Still, Roddick's progress gave me a lot of pleasure this Wimbledon and I will continue to root for him keenly.
As for Andy Murray, I tried to like him this time out but it just didn't happen, and I say that as someone who instinctively has always favoured Scotland over England in sport, unless the England in question contains substantial Northumbrian representation. With Murray, though, the elements just don't coalesce into a guy you could truly shout for. Or, as a mate of mine put it most pithily, 'It's his mam I can't stand'.
Anyhow, Roddick will get another runner's-up plate tomorrow and then I guess the summer is over. It's bad enough the Longest Day has come and gone, which always feels like the end to me, nights now drawing in and all that... (Not to sound like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, who famously waited with bated breath for the Longest Day and then missed it.) But by the time Wimbledon fortnight is done then, really, to all intents and purposes, it's time to go out and get your new school uniform - same as last year but one size bigger, in grey...

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