It all began one January afternoon. More than seven years has passed since and I still cannot explain what possessed me to watch that 2003 Australian Open quarterfinal between Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui. I was never particularly interested in tennis before this and I’ve never even watched an entire SET of tennis in my entire life. But on that random afternoon, not only did I get treated to what would be the men’s match of the year (and one of the best EVER of the Australian Open) but, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was also to begin a rollercoaster journey of ultimate fandom.
I still cannot exactly say what it was about Andy Roddick that day that has triggered my embarrassing, sometimes pathetic fandom (some might say obsession). He wasn’t particularly good-looking, which, I embarrassingly admit, is usually my first criteria for watching any sort of sport. I mean, he could be cute, but to this day, I still say that he’s at his cutest when he’s wearing a cap, and that’s not really promising, is it? It wasn’t his tennis either. He wasn’t a top player at the time of the AO. Sure, he broke the top 10 the first time the previous year but he hasn’t really had a breakthrough run yet (that was still to come in a few months).
But there was something about that epic match, which ended 4-6, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 to Andy (this was obviously seven and a half years before Isner and Mahut redefined the word “epic”), and the way it was played that made me root for Andy even after the four hours and fifty-nine minutes of the match.
Andy was too exhausted to win his semifinal match which he lost in straight sets, but it hardly mattered. I was hooked. I began following Roddick’s progress through the tour. I sat through his first (of many) Wimbledon loss to Roger Federer in the 2003 semifinal. And I shed a few tears while Andy bawled like a baby and hugged and kissed then-girlfriend Mandy Moore after his first and only Grand Slam at the 2003 US Open.
But, unfortunately for me and, obviously, for Andy too, not all the years were like pre-Federer-dominance 2003. Sure, he’s been in the top 10 for seven straight years (except for a brief spell this year), and second fiddle to the Federer-Nadal behemoth for the better part of that period. But there have been too many missed opportunities and too many bad losses. There were shocking first or second round eliminations in Grand Slams, and more frustrating losses to Federer in finals (3 in Wimbledon, 1 in the USO). Personally, I am still not over last year’s devastatingly heartbreaking loss to Federer in the Wimbledon final (which involved me calling a friend at 2am crying like I’ve never cried before).
And then there was last week’s disappointing and frustrating 2nd round loss to Tipseravic in the US Open, Andy’s home Slam, the one he’s always expected to do well in. And Wimbledon before that. And the AO before that. And many others before that.
Logic and reason tells me to just give up on Andy and save myself from the resulting heartbreak each Grand Slam will almost inevitably bring. The sensible thing to do is heed the warnings of the the-end-is-near-for-Roddick articles resulting from his US Open loss. As I have previously documented here, this is all self-imposed so nothing is preventing me to just simply stop being a fan.
Except for that fact that I am a true fan, and real ones don’t just quit on their teams and athletes when the going gets tough. Real fans are in it for the long haul, despite the numerous disappointments, the sleepless nights and the buckets of tears. So, even if it sounds unbelievable, even to me, it looks like I’ll be an Andy Roddick fan until he retires. Even if I know there will probably be more disappointments, more sleepless nights and more tears to come. But, what the heck, I’ve been through the Wimbledon 2009 loss and if I got through that ONE (surely, a loss can’t get any more heartbreaking?), I could handle 20 more Grand Slam eliminations.
If somebody told me that that 4 hour, 59 minute match would result in this emotional, irrational devotion to a man I don’t know and have only met once (and that requires a post of its own), I would’ve asked that person what he/she was smoking. But as it is, I can’t imagine not checking his Twitter updates or watching Wimbledon or the US Open in the wee hours of the morning. This is madness, I admit, but madness I can’t imagine my life without.
And it all began one January afternoon.
photos from Sebastian Costanzo for theage.com.au and sportydesktops.com