Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Contemplating the nature of Roddick’s injury

I have no inside information. The point of this article is not to cast doubt on the realness of Andy Roddick’s hip flexor injury. In fact, I am quite certain that Roddick is really hurt, not because I have any special faith in anything put out by his camp but because I have the highest regard for Larry Stefanki. And if Stefanki says that Roddick is hurt, well then he is hurt.

So the premise of this article is not to question whether Roddick is physically hurting but to ponder on the implications of this hurt. Stefanki recently took the onus in announcing that Roddick’s entry into the summer hardcourt season was going to be delayed while he recuperated from his hip injury.

This is potentially a serious injury. Similar injuries derailed the careers of such talents as Gustavo Kuerten and Magnus Norman. Both of these men were at the top of their game when their hips gave way. Both men underwent surgery and neither ever again regained their top form. A hip injury is no laughing matter.

When Roddick initially announced that he would not be taking part in Davis Cup, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical. My thought at the time was that he needed some time to lick his wounds. I remember thinking that if that was all it was, I did not agree with his choice to not play Davis Cup. I thought then that it was not a good idea for him to wallow in self-pity. I felt that he should jump back on the horse and demonstrate that he was psychologically stronger than any single loss, no matter how painful.

In hindsight, I am glad that I never got around to writing that piece. I would have ended up looking as ridiculous as a well-known but widely-despised blogger who initially questioned whether Michael Jackson had really died and suggested that it was all just a ploy to get out of his tour. Talk about egg all over his big fat face.

With the announcement that Roddick has also withdrawn from Indianapolis, I find myself contemplating the impact of his injury from a broader scope. Clearly the US would not have lost to Croatia had Roddick played Davis Cup. Clearly Dmitry Tursunov and Dudi Sela would not be the top seeds in Indianapolis had Roddick not called in sick. An injured Roddick is not good for American tennis.

That this coincides with an injured Nadal and an absent Federer places men’s tennis in a curious situation in which fans don’t quite know what events to purchase tickets for during the American summer season. Because let’s face it, as exciting as Djokovic and Murray may like to believe that they are, American fans are uniquely interested in the trio of Nadal, Federer, and Roddick. An injured Roddick is not good for ESPN coverage.

I would have preferred Roddick’s injury to be purely psychological. I would have preferred him to be struggling with bitterness and disappointment over his Wimbledon loss to Federer. I would have preferred him to be having nightmares in which he woke up screaming the numbers 14 -16. I would have preferred him to be depressed and despondent. Why? Because these are emotions from which any good sports psychologist could have helped him recover. These are experiences from which he could, with the right expertise, be redirected and re-focused. If I were his shrink, I would have attempted to persuade him to jump back on the horse, knowing that nothing eases recovery from a painful loss like the exciting experience of success. Nothing reminds one of one’s potential greatness than the courage to risk again.

But I have no guidance for his hip flexor. I don’t know what to make of an injury that has sidelined him for three weeks and for which a recovery date has not been announced. All I know is that I want him to get better. He came too close at Wimbledon to be derailed now. Any serious physical setback now risks being accompanied by a level of mental duress from which there may be no turning back.

The Championships - Wimbledon 2009 Day Thirteen

1 comment:

Kim said...

Just read this today - a week later. But I too am still thinking about Roddick and hoping he can pull through for the US Open. I think he deserved some time off after that kind of loss - probably the biggest of his career - and I'm sure his Davis Cup teammates did not begrudge his withdrawal. Thanks for your excellent insight into the implications this has for all of us interested in the US men, especially in Roddick.