Commentary

Roddick tripped up by Wimby rut again

Updated: June 28, 2010, 5:27 PM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- It's never easy being Andy Roddick amid the pomp and circumstance at the All England Club.

Oh, he's one of the best tennis players in the world, he's got a picture-perfect wife, more millions than he knows what to do with. But here at Wimbledon you have to feel for Roddick.

[+] EnlargeAndy Roddick
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesHere we go again: Andy Roddick, ever the Wimbledon bridesmaid, was upset by unseeded Yen-Hsun Lu in five sets Monday.

He's a three-time finalist, having lost all three ultimate matches -- in 2004, 2005 and 2009 -- to the man viewed as the best player in the game's history, Roger Federer. Last year, Roddick played as well as seemed humanly possible, only to lose 16-14 in the fifth set.

On Tuesday, he played another spirited match against a 26-year-old from Chinese Taipei named Yen-Hsun Lu. Roddick had beaten Lu twice this year (he was 4-for-4 in sets), but on the dry, baked grass at Wimbledon, Lu's game came to life. And to be fair, Roddick gave him hope. The match stretched across 4 hours and 36 minutes, until the shadows on Court No. 2 had lengthened dramatically. Roddick's serve was typically bulletproof, but in the final game Lu finally solved it.

Lu played the match of his life in beating the No. 5-seeded Roddick 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 9-7 and advancing to Wednesday's quarterfinal matchup with Novak Djokovic. And just as in last year's final, Roddick's serve wasn't broken until the very last game.

"I didn't get broken for five sets," said Roddick, always a truth-teller. "It wasn't my serve. It wasn't my service games. It was my returning. That was crap. It was really bad.

"I don't think 'stunned' is the right word. I don't view what happens today as an impossibility. I always struggle with how to describe my mood. I mean, there's only so many ways you can say it. So, I'm sure you can use your intuition and reach out and come up with something."

How about understandably furious?

"I thought he did a good job of controlling the middle of the court all day," Roddick said of Lu. "His ball was coming in with a lot more behind it than mine. He was switching directions, keeping me off balance, not letting me get set. I thought he served better than he has against me before.

"That being said, you know, I had shots. I didn't take advantage of them. Through three sets I was playing horrendously -- I mean really, really badly. I mean, to the point where I was trying to think of how to put balls in the court."

Lu, who is ranked No. 82 among ATP World Tour players, admitted that when the match progressed to the fifth set he didn't think he had a chance to win.

"I don't believe I can win, because he's a better server than me," Lu said. "I mean, for chance, I don't believe. But I just tell myself, 'Even [if] I don't believe, I have to fight. If I can stay longer, longer, longer, then probably something [good] happens.'"

Confidence, not physical shot-making, has been a problem for Lu, according to his fitness coach, En Yeh.

"Before he had a big problem -- if in one game he got a double fault, he would think too much," Yeh said after the match. "After this, [Coach Dirk] Hordorff said he should forget that and just concentrate on every serve and return. He tells him, 'You have good power, you move quickly. And you got good speed. Good forehand and backhand.

"'Don't worry about [that other stuff].'"

And that's just what he did. Lu held at 7-all in the fifth and gained match point when Roddick's forehand sailed long. His sizzling forehand from the baseline passed Roddick at net, and the American had lost another heartbreaker at Wimbledon.

Roddick's plight here is reminiscent of Greek mythology's Sisyphus. A king who angered the gods, Sisyphus was destined -- in a "Groundhog Day" sort of way -- to roll a massive boulder up a steep hill only to have it roll back down, through eternity.

Predictably, Roddick was asked by journalists how he was going to feel when he woke up on Tuesday morning.

"I'm going to be thrilled," Roddick deadpanned. "I mean, c'mon.

"It never gets easier. Of course I'm going to be pissed off when I wake up tomorrow. I mean, if you got fired from your job, you probably wouldn't wake up the next day in a great mood.

"I mean, c'mon, let's go."

And with that, he began the walk back to the locker room.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Ravi Ubha contributed to this story.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.