It’s strange how time seems to repeat itself or at least give you a feeling of déjà vu. I hadn’t realized until today that it was two years ago that I started this site, mainly as an experiment and just as a way to comment on the sport that I love. It’s telling to me that the first ever post I wrote was called “The End of An Era” and it was all about Marat Safin’s last appearance at Wimbledon during the middle of his final year on tour in 2009.
The next post after that was one about Lleyton Hewitt and my thoughts on how long he would keep competing. He had just upset Juan Martin Del Potro in the first round but Hewitt’s bout with multiple injuries seemed to suggest he was at the end of his career. Of course he went on to play Andy Roddick in a sublime quarterfinal match that as we look back on it now was probably the last hurrah of “Rusty” at SW19, even though Hewitt said after his five set loss to Robin Soderling that he still loves competing and has no immediate plans to retire.
Can we expect the same outlook from Roddick who lost to Feliciano Lopez today in straight sets 7-6(2), 7-6(2), 6-4? Lopez played a brilliant match, hitting 57 winners and only 8 unforced errors. Lopez has always had a lovely, throwback serve and volley style game though it’s been his head that’s gotten in the way of him realizing his full potential. It didn’t seem to matter today that he had lost to Roddick seven straight times, including a few weeks ago at Queen’s Club, but what was most surprising to me was how Roddick didn’t step up his game in both tiebreaks. Roddick once had the best record on tour of winning tiebreaks, mostly due to his big serve. But like his fellow American John Isner who also lost several tiebreaks going down to Nicolas Almagro, it appears serving big isn’t enough to win breakers anymore. And that’s bad news for both men.
This early exit by Roddick feels less surprising than his loss last year to Yen-Hsun Lu. It had an air of inevitability about despite Roddick’s earlier comments in the week that he thought he could reach the semis or finals of Wimbledon. He said in his post-match presser that he hasn’t improved his game since April ’10 but knows he needs to get better. Roddick appears aware of reality, but I’m not sure what more he can do or change to improve his game now.
Even though Roddick, for the moment, is still in the top ten, I think he’s the same boat as Hewitt actually. Roddick’s days as a serious contender for Majors is over, though he could still pull out an impressive run somewhere that could shock everyone. But though Hewitt might be content to grind it out on tour for the love of the game, I don’t know if Roddick would hang around the tour if his ranking falls too low. Roddick said in a recent interview he still enjoys playing and will continue to stay at it, but even if he stays healthy, I can’t see him hanging around like Hewitt purely for the love of the game. Call it a gut feeling more than anything else.
After his win yesterday, Roger Federer was asked about playing his next opponent David Nalbandian. Federer said Nalbandian was one of “the great players of my time”, listing Hewitt, Safin and Roddick. It does seem to hard to believe that “Federer’s era” which includes all those players is coming to an end even if all of them don’t follow Safin’s route for several years. Like today’s loss by Roddick, it’s inevitable and disappointing but it’s part of the sport. Just yesterday, we were treated to glimpses of the possible next era in Grigor Dimitrov, who’s been compared to Federer, Bernard Tomic, who will take over from Hewitt as Australia’s No. 1 player, and Ryan Harrison, who Andy Roddick now mentors.
One generation saying goodbye as another one says hello. So be it.
(On a personal note, I am moving cross-country starting today, I’ll be posting less frequently until I get fully settled. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @adjustingthenet as I’ll be spending more time on there.)