Andy Roddick’s New Gig; Toni Nadal Stirs Roland Garros Controversy — The Friday Five
By Maud Watson
Though Roland Garros has yet to get underway, some of the game’s biggest stars are already dreaming of the green lawns of the All England Club. Both Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro suffered major blows when they were forced to withdraw from the French Open. The decision by both to skip the second slam of 2013, though sad, is hardly a shock. Murray had already hinted last week in Rome that due to his bad back he was more apt to be absent in Paris than present. As for del Potro, his withdrawal came courtesy of an unfortunate respiratory virus that plagued him earlier in the clay court season and developed into a nasty case of bronchitis. He’s wisely opted to listen to his medical team and skip the French Open in order to put himself in the best possible position to finish the second half of the season strongly. Both men will be missed, but both made the right decisions when it comes to the bigger picture.
Andy Roddick hasn’t been retired for a full year, but the American is already set to trade in his racquet for a microphone as he prepares to delve into the world of sports broadcasting. Roddick won’t be covering just tennis either. He’s going to be a co-host of Fox Sports Live – Fox Sports’ answer to ESPN’s SportsCenter – which will debut on Fox Sports 1` on August 17. It will be a full-time gig for Roddick, who will appear on the show 4-5 nights a week. The American sounds excited about his new job, and he has the right attitude with his willingness to put in the hard yards and learn what it takes to become a top notch broadcaster. It’s hard to envision a scenario where this doesn’t work out well for Roddick. He’s always been a candid individual, and he’s generally been quick witted, be it at a press conference or clowning around in an exhibition. He’s bound to prove a natural and provide fans with plenty of enjoyment once again.
It’s a dangerous business to question the legitimacy of a player’s withdrawal when he or she cites illness. It’s arguably even more dangerous when that player is Maria Sharapova, who is known for being one of the fiercest competitors on the WTA. But there’s no denying that Sharapova’s abrupt pullout from Rome last week deserved a few raised eyebrows. The Russian withdrew before her quarterfinal match against Sara Errani citing an illness she claimed she’d first had in Madrid and that suddenly reared its ugly head again Thursday night. Over the course of the two premiere events, however, Sharapova showed no signs of a physical ailment. In fact, she was all smiles as she wrote a birthday message to boyfriend Dimitrov after thrashing Stephens the evening before she withdrew. Could it be she really wanted to avoid potential meetings with nemesis Azarenka, or more likely, her personal bogeyman Serena? Based on Sharapova’s track record of competitiveness, it’s worth giving her the benefit of the doubt her withdrawal was rooted in illness and not fear. Even if it were just a hint of queasiness, with a major around the corner – one where she’s defending champion – she can be forgiven for wanting to rest. But her premature departure from Rome certainly provided food for thought and only makes the likelihood of her turning around her dismal record against Serena seem all the more remote.
Another member of the Nadal Camp made headlines this past week, as Rafael Nadal’s uncle and coach, Toni Nadal, named his favorites for the French Open. In contrast to his nephew’s absurd insistence that he’s never the favorite for anything, Toni wisely named Rafa as one of the top picks to leave with some hardware. But what had some up in arms was not only Toni Nadal’s insistence that Federer was not a favorite, but that players like Ferrer and possibly Berdych or even Dimitrov had better odds. Granted, Federer is not going to be a heavy favorite, and at this stage in his career, he’s going to be more susceptible to the early upset. But he’s in with just as much of a chance, if not more so, than many of the guys Uncle Toni named, especially if they all reach the business end of things. Toni Nadal’s comments also mark the second time in three months that he’s taken what can arguably be construed as a dig at the Swiss No.1. It’s times like these when it would be nice if Rafa would put a muzzle on his uncle. Peter Bodo wrote an article on Tennis.com suggesting just that. He referenced how over the course of Rafa’s career, it seems it’s the “machine” (aka, Uncle Toni) controlling the man, rather than the other way around. It’s time for Rafa to take control and sit on his uncle. Toni Nadal’s comments only detract from his nephew. No other coach feels the need to elaborate the way he does. Perhaps he should take a page out of their books and go back to just focusing on the x’s and o’s where his charge is concerned.
Game of Inches
Look at a monstrosity like Arthur Ashe Stadium, and tennis players appear to have an abundance of room in which to run and hit. But when you really look at the game of tennis, it all boils down to mere inches. That was definitely the case in the quirkiness surrounding Virginia’s upset win over top seed UCLA to take home the NCAA men’s title. The win came courtesy of Mitchell Frank’s come-from-behind win over Adrien Puget. The pivotal point – a match point for Puget – occurred when Puget was called for touching the net. It turned out to be a costly touch, especially since Frank’s pass on that match point missed in the wind. Momentum switched to Frank, and that was all she wrote. Afterwards, Frank was quoted as saying, “I’m glad he touched the net. A couple of inches can make the difference.” No truer words were ever spoken.