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Friday, August 31, 2012

Adios, Andy Roddick / A-Rod !

It's early morning here in Bangalore, India ...and I just woke up to the news of Andy Roddick retiring is a bad, sad start to the day ...

A wonderfully captured pic, that I found on the net, of what is considered by many around the world as "The Greatest Serve Ever"
My mind immediately traveled backwards, by a decade ...One man was the undisputed lord of tennis man was the reigning emperor around whom others were mere players....He was Roger Federer, a superhuman creation of God with two things most characteristic about him then - his ponytail and the trademark explosion of his tear glands after winning every championship... Then came in one man from The United States of America, with a serve faster than light trounce the emperor in the former's own backyard - Andy Roddick.

Though that remains the only grand slam that he has won till date, Roddick shall ALWAYS be remembered and etched in history for being THE FIRST REAL opponent to Roger, before a juggernaut of a fireball called Rafael Nadal came rolling from Spain. I fondly remember all grand slams in the pre-Rafa era - they would have the same routine - Roger knocking down everyone on his path just like the scene of how Will Smith pushes aside cars and other vehicles in one of his sci-fi movies. ( Was it iRobot ? I don't quite remember ). 

On the other hand, we'd have A.Rod smashing his way past opponents on same days and on other days, suffering a bit of a jolt, before smashing his way back in. Almost as soon as the tournament began, it would be time for the final, like it always is, with tennis tournaments. The final would always be only one tie - A. Roddick ( USA ) v/s R.Federer (SUI). 

Each and every final, I would pray badly for Roddick to win. I would be surrounded by Roger supporters in my family as well as in my undergrad course ( I fondly remember texting - "Yay !!!" and "Wooohoo!" to my classmate Krutika Sogal, a Roger fanatic, during those rare occasions where Roddick would break Federer's game ) and I would be the lone Roddick fan. But, such was Roddick's fate - work his way hard up to the final, only to suffer at the hands of the almighty ; Roddick fans having to bear the re-announcements from all Federer fans about how the latter, once again, proved himself to be the lord of tennis. 

The peak of disappointment would be at the presentation ceremony, where A.Rod would hold his plate and stealthily try to steal a glimpse of Roger's trophy. This kinda became a routine - every tournament, it would be the same drill and in yet another final, I would ask God - "Okay ...Federer's most likely gonna win again ...Can I just ask for ONE miracle that will make Roddick win ??" ...Sadly, God decided NEVER to fulfill that wish of mine, except in charity games and other non-grand-slam tournaments. 

The best thing I like about A.Rod, as do many others, I'm sure - is his TOTALLY extraordinary, legendary, epic, stylish, out-of-the-world serve. I have lost count of the number of times I have held a badminton racket, a cricket bat ..hell, with even my dog's walking stick i.e. the stick I carry along when I take my dog for a walk....even with that, I've randomly tried to imitate A.Rod's serve ..probably a million home, at work, on the road, in the loo....hell !! Everywhere !!! I tried my hand at playing tennis for the first time, in 2010, with Bharath Sriram, at the tennis courts at The Ohio State campus. No prizes for guessing the first thing I tried to do with the racquet and the tennis ball - Yep, imitating his serve. Although, for about 3 times, I never quite succeeded and almost came close to smashing my own head in one of them! :D ....and of course, when I made sure no one else was watching me, I did everything I always imagined I'd do ...when I held a tennis racquet in my hand - pulling my tshirt outside a little i.e. giving two little pulls near the chest, wiping my face on my left sleeve, shaking my left hand vigorously until my watch went as inward as possible..pitching the ball a couple of times in a flash...and then holding the racquet almost horizontally, before throwing the ball up ..and trying out the LEGENDARY, EPIC Roddick serve !! :) ....Mind you, if I ever happen to hold a tennis racquet again in my life, this'll be the first thing I'd try out !!! :D ...I can bet a billion dollars on that ! :D 

His serve ALWAYS awed me ...consistently between 145-155 mph ...whew !!! It was THE MOST AMAZING sight ...when he got his service right - the opponent would be a mere spectator, walking from left to right and right to left ...for about 30 seconds, watching tennis balls fly past him like bolts of lightning, before getting his turn to serve ...I'm sure he would've been thinking - "Hey ..wait a minute ..didn't I just win my game ?" ....

But what when he didn't quite get his service right ?? That's what led to the downfall of Roddick ...and kept him permanently as a good opponent ...and never as a champion ....On his hayday, his lightning-like service would be enough to terrorize and scare the sh*t outta his opponents, so much so, that they lose complete focus on their rallies and make it a cakewalk for A.Rod ...but up against champions and people who DO NOT get scared of his services, Roddick just fell apart like a pack of cards ....

The rise of Rafael Nadal made sure Roddick was no longer THE rival for Roger ....I still supported Roddick though ...It was during one particular match, against Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus the 3rd round ...when Roddick JUST COULDN'T get anything right...his services failed to scare Marcos....and he was just no match for him........It was then....that I realized - okay's where it all begins's the beginning of the end ...for A.Rod ....and I became more of a Rafa supporter :) ....and that's how it all happened too ...Roddick never quite got his rallies right ...and soon, his serve no longer had the magic it used to ...opponents could read him easily....he was no longer a force to reckon with ...His ranking dipped from 2 to 3,4,5,6,7 ...and so on ....Frequent injuries didn't help him either .... Anti A-Rod folks used to tell me - you better thank God that you're spared from the embarrassment of having to witness a humiliating crash-out in the 2nd or 3rd round ....Well, I had no choice but to agree & accept the bitter reality ...soon, Roddick couldn't make it past the first few rounds itself ....he started losing the the most random, unheard of ...people ....

However, it was on one Wimbledon in recent times, when Rafa was injured ....that A.Rod launched himself to the finals of Wimbledon against Roger ...for Roger, it was probably a relief that he didn't have to play Rafa ...and it was his chance of getting the title back ....for A.Rod, it was a NOW-OR-NEVER shot at the Wimbledon title ....This was when the Roddick fan in me re-emerged ....and I rooted for him in all sincerity and dedication ...At the back of my mind, I was confident that Roddick would win this one - God gave him a shot at the title after many years ...God gave him a chance to take the sweetest, perfect revenge on Roger and avenge the numerous defeats at his hands in grand-slam finals ....Why would God do that, unless he felt that A-Rod too, deserved a win ??

I was OVERJOYED ..I was EXULTANT ...I was DELIGHTED...I was JUMPING LIKE A 5-YEAR OLD KID WHO JUST GOT HIS TUB OF ICE-CREAM....when I saw the match going into a 5-setter ...I was SURE that Roddick was gonna win this one ....Roddick wasn't himself that day ...he was someone else...he was magician...who pulled out THE VERY BEST OF TENNIS FROM THIN AIR ....I had prepared myself to beat my chest like King-Kong in front of all the Roger fans who had taunted me for many years ...I still couldn't believe it ....WAS IT REALLY RODDICK ??? Was it really the man who could only serve, who was playing UNBELIEVABLE, UNSEEN, NEVER-IMAGINED tennis that day and giving Roger high blood pressure and breathlessness ??? 

I was waiting for the winning moment ....and it came ....only, it went to Federer again ....I was DEVASTATED ....yes, that's the word ...I was DEVASTATED on what eventually happened ...looked up to God and said - "Dude !! Seriously ??? Again ??? You JUST HATE A-Rod, don't you ???" ....But this time, there was one thing which made me feel better - One didn't see the usual thundershowers of praise being showered on Roger ...There were thundershowers of praise alright...but they were all heaped on Roddick !!! 

This was the most heartwarming sight ...the greatest moment of A-Rod's career....and SURELY, the greatest moment for me as an A-Rod fan.......Even Federer fans threw aside their routine of glorifying the almighty lord of tennis ....and involuntarily, uncontrollably hailed Roddick ...for one of THE GREATEST EXHIBITS OF TENNIS THEY HAD EVER SEEN IN THEIR LIVES !!!!!  ....This was probably THE ONLY game in recent times ...which made LOSING LOOK OH-SO-COOL !!!!!!  ....If the winner were decided on appreciation, love and respect opposed to Tennis rules and scores, A-Rod WAS THE CHAMPION BY MILES !!!!!!! This was UNDOUBTEDLY THE PEAK of Roddick's career ....Anyone and everyone will remember this game as ONE OF THE GREATEST TENNIS GAMES OF ALL TIMES ...and also, the one with the most tear-jerking, heart-breaking result ....Apart from this, the best thing about Roddick was his sense of humor ...his eccentricities - vigorously walking up to the net and shaking it for no reason...cracking jokes in the middle of the game....admitting his desire to knock down a couple of beers at the post-match presentation ...all these made him appear as a very likable sport, at the end of it all ....

Much as I hate to admit it, he's ABSOLUTELY doing the RIGHT thing by retiring ...he is on the verge of fading into oblivion ...with all the Nadals and Djokovics and Tsongas and Del Potros taking center-stage against Roger ...At this point in time, people are always gonna remember him as one of those rare tennis players who ALWAYS HAD A CAP on ( though it probably only caused him hair loss ) of those rare, eccentric tennis players ...who sadly never gave out his VERY BEST ....until the end, when unfortunately, lady luck decided never to take his side ....Of course, the only apt phrase that people can attribute  to A.Rod in his honor is "Serves him right !" :) .... People will remember A-Rod for being the tennis player with THE BEST and THE MOST TERRORIZING serve matter what !!! :)

With a heavy heart and a sigh, adios A.Rod !! Thanks for the wonderful memories - those rare, wonderful moments of triumph and jubilation, as well as the numerous, not-so-wonderful moments of embarrassment and humiliation :D....You're a rare sportsman, who made me feel that supporting a consistently losing player CAN ALSO BE COOL......and ABSOLUTELY WORTH EVERY BIT .....SOLELY for surreal moments of magic like the Wimbledon final against Roger ....

Wishing you the very best in life ahead, A. Rod !! I've always wanted to watch you play live, but I guess my luck is just like yours - never got around to watching you live, even during my 2 years in the US ...Might I request to play either in the Chennai Open or the Bangalore Open anytime ?? :D hehe !!
- A die-hard fan from Bangalore, India, one of whose dreams in a long list, is getting to meet you someday, take a pic with you and receive your autograph ...


1 comment:

Krutika Sogal said...

Take a bow Andy Roddick!