During the US Open 2010 second round match between Andy Roddick and Janko Tipsarevic [the match that Roddick lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (4)], John McEnroe became lethal in his criticism of Roddick. Throughout the match Johnny Mac kept up the negative comments on Roddick’s crappy shot selection, defensive baseline play, and unintelligent court positioning. And at the lowest moment he noted that Roddick was playing like a 14-and-under player. Every single word of criticism was accurate and precise. In fact, Johnny Mac’s observations helped prepare the viewing audience for the fact that Roddick was about to lose the match. And he did.
Sitting next to Johnny Mac in the ESPN commentator booth were two men with conflicting interests. The first was Pat McEnroe, John’s brother and the Captain of the Davis Cup Team of which Roddick has been a reliable and dependable member for many years. Indeed, Roddick helped the US Davis Cup earn a Championship in 2007.
Which is probably why Pat seemed so uncomfortable and frozen, caught in the middle of an alliance to his player and the reality of the accuracy of his brother’s pin-point comments. It’s not that Pat was being baited into making negative comments himself. Johnny Mac was running his own show, telling the truth as he saw it. But Pat may have felt in a conflicted position. Nothing else explained why he tried to make such a big deal out of Roddick getting called out for three foot-faults. It’s like Pat was looking for a redemptive moment and grabbed on to it like a man drowning.
In the meantime, Johnny Mac kept up with the lethal commentary on Roddick’s sucky play and bratty behavior. And Johnny Mac should know. He wrote the book on Bratty-ism.
The other man in the ESPN booth was Brad Gilbert, Roddick’s former coach. Ever since they parted ways, Brad has seemed to go to lengths to be circumspect in his comments about Roddick. He doesn’t blast him. On the contrary he often recalls their glory days – and they were. Gilbert is the only reason Roddick has a Slam win under his belt. Knowing this may be a factor in why Brad always tries to find good things to say about Roddick’s play.
But I have long had the impression that Andy Roddick is the elephant in the room that you’re not allowed to talk badly about if you work for ESPN. He has been America’s great tennis hope. He attracts huge corporate endorsements, the type that allowed him to pick his wife out of a Sports Illustrated catalog. He is a powerhouse in American tennis.
But in my opinion, The Boor is an abusive bully who repeatedly disrespects and sarcastically insults umpires (“Call 1-800-ref”) and gets away with it. He seems to get linespersons changed at will – the poor woman who called the correct foot-fault but named the wrong foot was soon sent summarily packing. (If only a woman tennis player had that power!) Roddick is in my opinion an undisciplined arse-hole whom coaches seem to soon find unmanageable. No wonder he’s been through a string of them.
But we’re not allowed to say any of this about darling Andy. We’re supposed to talk about how charitable he is (never mind the negative whispers), and about how beautiful his wife is, and about how great and exciting he is for American tennis.
So when John McEnroe decided to blast through the bullshit and speak the truth about the horridness of tennis he was observing – when he pointed out that all Roddick did was grind the ball endlessly back and forth, had no tactics or shot variation, remained planted well behind the baseline from, and took no chances (you know, the way 14 and under players tend to do) – well John seemed to have broken a cardinal rule about tennis commentary when The Boor is on the court. And my theory is that this is what cost Pat McEnroe his job.