Andy Roddick's best can't stop greatness of Roger Federer

Andy Roddick's best can't stop greatness of Roger Federer


Published : September 6, 2007 / New York Daily News

Andy Roddick, a former champion of the place, threw everything he had at Roger Federer last night at Arthur Ashe Stadium, did that for the first two sets, threw his hardest serves and his hardest groundstrokes, tried to be everything his coach, Jimmy Connors, used to be on tennis occasions like this. It was all he had and all he still is, everything Roddick was supposed to be, for a long time, after he won the U.S. Open in 2003. This was his best game and his best night. And it was not enough. Not nearly enough. He was up against Federer, who did not just show you the best of his sport last night, but the best in any sport.

"I played my ass off tonight," Roddick would say afterward. "I played the right way."

You can take Tiger Woods on a golf course or Alex Rodriguez, the way Alex Rodriguez is hitting a baseball right now for the Yankees. You can take LeBron in basketball or Kobe on nights when he can't miss. Then look at Federer on a night like this, look at his best game. He is the greatest player of this era, on his way to being the greatest of any era in tennis. Roddick came after him for two sets, and kept coming and had nothing to show for it, and by the time he got to the third set, you know that the rest of it was just bookkeeping and accounting at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Roddick, a tough young guy, a nice young guy with heart and power even if he plays like a meathead sometimes, has one speed in tennis. Federer has all the speeds and he showed all of them off last night. And finally sent Roddick home, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Roddick did not lose his serve in the first set. Did not have a break point against his serve. Lost that set in a tiebreaker. When it was 5-4 for Federer, Roddick got in on him at the net and Federer rolled this backhand past him that came off his racket so cleanly you didn't hear anything at Ashe Stadium until the crowd, a Roddick crowd, had to cheer when it was past their guy. On Federer's second set point, he poured an ace down the middle and was up a set.

Federer was in black. Roddick was in black. Men in black in the quarters of the Open on the second Wednesday night. But one was better, because one is better than everybody in tennis except one guy - Rafael Nadal - on the red clay of the French Open.

Roddick came back at him in the second set, came at him the way he had in the first, came at him as if he would do that into the middle of the night. He had lost to Federer in the Australian Open, lost badly from 4-all in the first set, could only get two games off him after that. He was 1-13 against him lifetime and had lost the last Open final.

But this was the Open, which he owned once, this was New York.

This was his best game.

Didn't matter last night at Ashe.

"This is the Roddick I watched when he won the Open," Connors had said the other day, and then talked about how Roddick's swagger was back. He had brought all of that to the second Wednesday night of the Open. And did not get broken in the second set. Did not have a break point against him again. Roddick is the one who had the break point, in the eighth game of the second set. He got a second serve from Federer and tried to hit it too hard and saw it float long. Federer got out of the game.

And then late in the second-set tiebreaker, he hit one shot that was the beginning of the end for Roddick, a shot that reminded everybody at Ashe, as if they needed reminding, just who it was they were watching. At 4-all, Roddick hit a serve 140 mph into Federer's body. It must have come back, off Federer's backhand, at 141. It came back at Roddick's feet and he missed, and Federer served out the set from there.

Now he was up two sets.

Now he was Pete Sampras against Andre Agassi on another second week at the Open, when they played all tiebreakers and Sampras won. Only Roddick was done. Federer finally broke him to 4-2 after a long rally, getting Roddick to miss. Now Federer was the one who yelled at Ashe.

A few minutes later it was over. On the court, Federer was asked about his next opponent, Nikolay Davydenko. Federer smiled when asked about Davydenko.

"I have a pretty good record against him," he said. "I've never lost."

Roddick was gone by then, off the court, into the locker room. Nothing for him to say. His best night. His best game. Not nearly good enough. Not against the other guy in black.