In London, sports are sport, Americans are ungracious blokes and Andy Roddick is brave, tenacious, athletic and bloody valorous. So like Hamlet, Othello and Romeo before him, Roddick naturally became the tragic hero in the British writer's five-act narrative arc.
With no more excuses to fawn over Andy Murray, the British press needed to appoint a larger-than-life figure from Sunday's Wimbledon final, which, just one year after the Nadal-Federer epic, was "possibly the greatest, gutsiest attempted larceny the old tournament has ever seen." (That's sort of comparable to The Greatest Match Ever Played, I suppose.) Fortunately for the royal hacks, they had their choice of Roddick and Federer to laud. Most chose Federer. Some brave few extolled Roddick in a rather surprising twist heretofore not seen in canonical British literature.
Roddick made a mockery of that presumption, of so many presumptions in fact, firstly that it required his A game to beat Murray in the semi-final. As we now know, it was only his B-plus performance. Herewas Roddick's peak this year, perhaps even in his career, and that Federer still found the wit and strength to defeat him over 30 games in the final set is what puts him apart as a champion.
‘How would you describe what you did here today?' Roddick was asked. ‘I lost,' he deadpanned. And, yes, he did, and nothing else matters to such a competitor. Yet, for once, the black and white cannot be allowed to tell the whole story.
Roger Federer is now beyond debate the greatest tennis player there has been and we know this because after four hours and 17 minutes and 77 games on July 5, 2009, he was fractionally better than Andy Roddick. And if he wasn't the greatest player in the history of the sport he would not have been. It is as simple as that.
When Roddick, the 26-year-old Texan who last Friday gave Britain's prospective Grand Slam hero Andy Murray an ultimate lesson in the need to go all the way beyond what you thought was your deepest possible commitment, finally surrendered 14-16 in the fifth set which stretched the match into its fifth hour, he had almost literally been played to a standstill.
However, if it happens that the US Open title he won six years ago – in that hiatus between the glory of Sampras, whose record mark of 14 Grand Slam titles was passed by Federer last night – and the rise of the man who in the end had just a little too much of everything, he has something to tell the grandchildren who are likely to gather around him one day.
He can tell them that he once challenged one of the greatest sportsman who ever lived to fight as he had hardly ever fought before.
He had created his impeccable history, something beyond revision or doubt. He accomplished all he had hoped. Roddick? He took his own place in the annals of the game. It is that place where the fighters reside, the men who make the challenge ultimately so worthwhile.
Roddick went back to his chair, dropped his racket at his feet and stared at the ground, to be roused by shouts of "Roddick, Roddick". Not even in New York, at home, where he won his ground-breaking first grand-slam title in 2003, had the crowd reacted to him so. He rose and applauded them back. One hoped that at home, the Americans were raising their chilled beers to him. He had been heroic, he had been human, he had given all he had.
Federer was about to raise the cup again. Glory, glory to the champion. Roddick had lost, but he hadn't really.
Ah, there's the moral victory that Roddick wouldn't acknowledge, but the press was all too giddy to bestow on him. But in reality, Roddick was a winner — for British bettors:
chickendinner tipped A-Rod to reach the final, which if you bet with Paddy Power as we advised would have earned you a £50 return on a £5 E/W stake, although it could have been £145 if he hadn't tired at the end.
The wienerschnitzel's on me if you can put that into proper English.