September 28, 2008

Making His Comeback

Andy Roddick started out the year with a bang.

In February he won the SAP Open in San Jose, fitting as the company has sponsored Roddick for years. Then he beat both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on his way to the title in Dubai.

But after that things slowed down a bit.

He lost his spot as the top-ranked player in the U.S. to my favorite James Blake, he suffered an upset in the second round at Wimbledon to the tattooed Janko Tipsarevic, and skipped out on the Olympics only to be humbled at the hands of Juan Martin Del Potro in the finals at the Coutrywide Classic in Los Angeles.

But this week Andy was set to argue that he should not be forgotten as one of the major forces in men's tennis. He went back to Beijing, one month after the Olympics ended, to take his shot at the China Open. And after four matches he found himself holding the championship trophy over his head.

China may not be the pantheon of tennis, but the tournament has attracted some top-notch players over the years. Last year's champ, Fernando Gonzalez, took the silver medal at the Olympics and the year before Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis won the title when he was ranked a career-high #8.

Roddick didn't have the toughest of draws to get to the finals in Beijing -- his best-known opponent was Juan Carlos Ferrero who has dropped percipitously in the rankings in 2008, from #15 in January to #48 now. For the title Andy took on #92, Dudi Sela of Israel, who actually had a much more impressive road -- he consecutively beat the top seed David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo and Rainer Schuettler for the right to play for the title.

To be fair, Andy never fell out of the top ten, so to designate this a "comeback" may not be entirely appropriate. But my hope is that the win gives him some of the confidence he needs to fight through what's left of the season. With the title Roddick's ATP Race ranking rises to #6, ahead of Ferrer and putting him in contention to vie for the year-end championships in Shanghai. We all know that a little bit of momentum can be all you need to pull out another victory!

Incidentally in another part of Asia, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated top-seeded Djokovic at the finals in Bangkok for the first title of his career. Tsonga, who sat out for three months this year recovering from knee surgery, avenged his January loss to Nole in the Australian Open finals and certainly improved his own chances to compete for the Tennis Master Cup as well.

Congratulations to all!

And to all of you, serve well and play hard!

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