Federer, Roddick a contrast in styles
Any sport that finds a better leader, in or outside the competitive arena, than Roger Federer is going to be very lucky.
This is not a moment to make comparisons with golf because we know what is going on there, but Federer sets as good an example for young tennis players as anyone could ask for. Everyone knows he is stylish and brilliant on court; those of us who get a closer look at the man know that he is stylish, honest, intelligent and reasonably forthcoming in his daily life as well.
Federer was doing his customary pre-tournament press conference here at the Sony Ericsson Open on Thursday and talked of many things — losing (as at Indian Wells last week), the media, practicing in front of crowds. All were covered in his down-to-earth way. There is no side to Roger, and he reveals no more than he wants to.
He admitted to feeling “empty” after losing to Marcos Baghdatis in the third round at the BNP Paribas Open. He had looked really disappointed in the moments after his defeat but everything is relative and, earlier, Andy Roddick had still been talking at length about a certain defeat at Wimbledon nine months ago. Roddick was asked about that final, of course, and will have to live with whatever is written as a result. Federer knows all about that and talked about his attitude to what gets written about him.
“I think I used to read more because I was wondering ‘What did they write after I talked to them?’”, he said with a little smile. “How do they create these stories? So you check on everything they say like a hawk. But, today, we kind of all know each other, so it helps, you know. There are less weird things written about me because when I say something people know what I mean today, whereas in the beginning you still had to try and explain yourself. Maybe they don’t know your character so well so they misinterpret many, many things.”
Federer added that he did not watch tapes of his matches as much any more because he just doesn’t have the time with the arrival of his twin daughters and everything.
“You know, Mirka takes care of all the big work and I try to help as much as I can from my side. But it’s amazing time for me right now. I love tennis, of course, so it’s a great balance and a great life for me at the moment.”
Federer was asked about what it feels like to have people four deep watching him practice: “Yeah, it’s funny how it goes. You reach No. 1 in the world and the next time you practice, you’ve got a crowd. That’s something that was a shockingly nice surprise when it happened in 2004. But it’s not easy. I feel like everything is documented and I do feel, sometimes, that it would be nice to be alone on the practice courts. But it’s just part of my life today.”
As a leading member of the supporting cast, Roddick knows exactly what Federer is talking about, but with Andy you get different sorts of answers. He can be flip, sarcastic and funny, and if that got him into trouble earlier in his career, regular tennis writers understand him now, too, and realize he is a good guy who loves and honors the game. And he will be a little more expansive than Federer, revealing more of himself as the emotion takes hold.
Talking about his dramatic 16-14 fifth-set loss to Federer at Wimbledon, Roddick said, “Obviously I was heartbroken afterwards. It was a lot tougher being that close than compared to the ’05 Wimbledon final where I lost in straight sets and didn’t feel I was ever really into the match. You know, I was almost a point away — I had break points there in the fifth. I was bummed out. But again, it’s a matter of perspective. If my world falls apart because I lose a tennis match, I really don’t have much else going for me. My worst day, my most heartbreaking loss, is a lot of people’s best day. I had Centre Court at Wimbledon chanting my name afterwards. I mean, that’s a great thing. That was really cool.”
Then, inevitably, he was asked about his wife, Brooklyn, and a first-year anniversary which is looming: “Yes. Thanks for reminding me.”
Roddick is always ready with the quick quip. But he expanded on their relationship, too: “As far as our year is concerned, it’s been great. I think we both realize — probably more me than her at this point — that, in the grand scheme of our lives, this is probably a very important three or four years for me. So we’ve been real good. I think we support each other 100 percent. One of my favorite things about Brook is how independent she is. I like that she has her own stuff going on. I like that she’s motivated. In a way, that almost makes it easier for us.”
Equally inevitably, that led to a reference to the fact that his wife got a Sports Illustrated cover before he did.
“Yeah. Trust me, that fact wasn’t lost on her," Roddick said. "I promise you. She gave me a little crap. I said, after the Wimbledon final, three or four days afterwards, after I had started speaking again, I said to her, you’re going to get it before me. That was one of the things I was bitter about.”
The expression tells you how serious Andy is being. Or not. He can turn his sense of humor on himself as fast as one of his serves leaves his racket. But what you get from him is an “A" for effort. He’s still America’s No. 1. And he’s not going away.