Andy is back!

I was there when Andy Roddick played his last point as a professional player at the 2012 US Open, and I still haven’t gotten used to him not being in the draw in the majors. While my eye-bags and stress levels are grateful that I have no one to root for so passionately anymore, I miss watching Andy.

Thankfully, Andy signed on to be a Fox Sports Live host, so he will still be on TV, if not on the court. And one of the first things he did as part of his new job was this interview with his on-court nemesis, Roger Federer.

Andy’s famous wit and humor is on full display, even in the short clip below.  There’s a lot of joking around. In my favorite exchange Andy even calls Roger a “selfish bastard” when talking about their 2009 Wimbledon final. But there’s some serious stuff, too, like when Andy talks about Roger’s graciousness in the locker room after that crushing, crushing loss (is it just me or did Andy looked teary talking about that?) and when they discuss the impact of the death of Federer’s former coach, Peter Carter.

It’s definitely not the same as watching them battle it out on Centre Court, but it sure is less stressful and is as entertaining.

Welcome back, Andy!

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Goodbye and thank you, Andy

I planned my trip to the US specifically to go and watch the US Open. I jokingly said that it may be my last chance to catch Andy Roddick in a grand slam because of rumors about him retiring soon but I really was just joking when I said that. I never really took those seriously, and I figured Andy had at least another season on tour.

So after screwing up the tickets (buying two tickets to the same session, buying the wrong kind of tickets), I managed to get one to Arthur Ashe on Tuesday, to see Andy’s first round match. It was my first time to watch Andy play. To finally see an Andy Roddick match, after the previous failed attempt at seeing him play, in a Grand Slam, in the biggest venue in the sport, was a dream come true.

I was happy to finally tick that off my bucket list, and content to leave it at that. Except that two days after, on his 30th birthday, Andy announced that he was retiring and that the US Open was going to be his final tournament.

I know I joked about it, but I couldn’t believe it. Just like that, a career, over. For me, it was the end of an era.

After the initial shock wore off, I had to make a decision. Do I scramble and splurge for tickets to Andy’s remaining matches? Pre retirement announcement, I was happy with getting to see just his first round match. But with the reality that every match could be his last, I wanted to be there. And so, bank account balance be damned, I bought tickets to Andy’s 3rd round match.

Andy won that match, and he was to meet Juan Martin del Potro in the 4th round. I thought long and hard about getting tickets to the Tuesday match. I already spent a small fortune on the 3rd round match, I had a commitment in Manhattan that night, and the weather forecast was awful. But on the other hand, Del Potro was the toughest opponent Andy has met so far and he could very well end Andy’s career.

As that F-word I was loathe to use (yep, the same one responsible for my seeing Andy in person the first time) would have it, I had tickets to the Wednesday day session. My aunt had equivalent tickets to last year’s session, but that one got completely rained out, so the USTA compensated her with tickets for the same session this year. My cousin was unable to go with her because of work, so my aunt gave her spare ticket to me.

I’ve never, ever prayed this hard for a rain delay before. Fortunately for me (I do feel bad for the ticket holders for the Tuesday night session), the rain didn’t let up and Andy and Juan’s match got rescheduled. To Wednesday. In the day session. And I had a ticket.

And so it came to be that I was there when Andy played his latch match, struck his last serve and hit his last ball as a professional tennis player.

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That serve.

It goes without saying that I was wreck during the match, and by the second to the last service game (and Andy’s last) I was in tears. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like for Andy, having to fight through the points, and deal with the roller coaster of emotions that he was surely going through. How conflicting it must feel to focus and try win games and perhaps the set, when you’re a game from losing the match, and effectively ending a career that started when you were a kid.

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Andy walking off court for the last time.

And it did end, with a love service game from del Potro. With Andy hitting a forehand long, years of watching matches into the wee hours of the morning, monitoring draws, the disappointments over tough losses, the joy over huge wins, was over.

I won’t even try to pay tribute to Andy’s distinguished career, his spirit, his contribution to the sport, his character and his wit. I don’t think I’m qualified, and other people already did it much better than I possibly could have (some of my favorites are here and here).

All I know is that I will always be grateful to be have timed my trip perfectly for this, and for the crazy circumstances that led to me getting to watch Andy’s final match.

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And also, thank you, Andy. You’re already missed.

I think it’s time to let go

Note: If you’re not a sports fan, or think that my previous posts about Real Madrid CF, the Spain football team or Andy Roddick are silly, then you might want to skip this post.

One of the saddest things in life is realizing that one of your dreams is never going to come true. We’re talking “realizable” dreams, here, nothing related to marrying Prince Harry or Andrea Casiraghi. And it’s all the more painful when that dream was literally inches away, yet it still slipped through your grasp.

In the early morning of July 6, 2009, that is exactly what happened. Serving at 14-15 down, Andy Roddick hit his second straight forehand error to hand the 2009 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles title to his long-time foil, Roger Federer. Andy was playing the best tennis of his life (no exaggeration here, I promise) and came within a single point to take a commanding two sets to love lead and a vital break up in the fifth, yet he still went home with the Wimbledon runner’s up plate.

I cried the hardest I’ve ever cried in recent memory after that final forehand error. I was actually sobbing in earnest and was doing that hiccup-y/gasping-for-breath thing you do when you are crying so hard. I was heartbroken. Gutted. Depressed. Inconsolable. I actually had trouble sleeping a couple of nights afterwards. It was THAT. BAD.

I thought, along with a lot of tennis (not just Andy Roddick) fans, that if there was any justice in the world, a sense of fairness, a God, then Andy would win the 2010 Wimbledon title. I know it was naïve to think that way, but he was so close and played SO, SO well, against THE Federer in 2009, it was only right that he won the next one… Which of course didn’t happen.

Andy lost in the quarterfinals from then unheard-of (and never heard from again) Lu Yen Hsun. I should’ve known then that the dream was fading. But the thing with tennis (and most sports) is that, in most cases, you are entitled to think “there’s always next year.” But alas, Andy has crashed out of Wimbledon 2011, losing to the lefty Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in the third (third!!) round.

With Andy not getting any younger, his game not getting any better (Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim actually said his game was regressing) and his opponents getting tougher, it’s time to face the inevitable, but nevertheless painful, truth. Andy Roddick will probably never win Wimbledon.

Andy pretty much admitted it himself, but it’s still hard to swallow for me. I know it seems overdramatic to be so affected by this, it is, after all his career, his life, his dream. But years of supporting an athlete/sports team will do that to you. Their successes become yours, and their failures even more so. As stalker-ish as it may sound, I know how important it is for Andy to win that second slam, and Wimbledon (along with the US Open) always represented his best chance of doing that.  To have come so unbearably close two years ago and never to get past the quarters since must be maddeningly frustrating and disappointing. I know it is for me, and I’m not the one holding the racket.

And so, with a heavy heart, I have concluded that it’s time to let the Wimbledon dream go. I’m not entirely sure it’s possible, but I will force myself not to get my hopes up every time Andy heads to SW19. I will no longer wait for the draws with anticipation and not analyze Andy’s chances based on the said draw. I will stop obsessing over the online scoreboard when I can’t watch a match live and I will not keep myself up until 2 in the morning on weekday even if I can. To save myself the disappointment, I will no longer hope, I will no longer expect.

Yeah right.

The Year (and a half) that was

Yes, I know that, technically, I should only be covering the last calendar year. But the last half of last year was too amazing to leave out, and I didn’t have a blog to recap last year, so I’m including those six months here.

I think I could, without a doubt in my heart, say that the last eighteen months have been the most amazing and exciting in my life. I’ve never had so many wonderful experiences cramped into such a small timeframe (relative to the rest of my life, that is) that it needs to be commemorated somewhere. If and when I fall into a “my life sucks!” rut (which, let’s face it, happens to everyone, except maybe if you’re Gisele Bunchen or Kate Middleton), this will be a reminder that, no, not really. My wildest dreams came true last year and a half, so I pretty much have no right to complain about anything in the following year and a half (not that that would ever stop me).

So anyway, here goes. A recap of my wonderful 2010 (and July-December 2009):

1: Getting to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup live in South Africa: All football fans dream of getting to watch the World Cup, and I am no exception. But never, ever, in a bajillion years did I think that this dream would come true. It was just one of those things that was never goning to happen, unless of course I had another dream come true and ended up marrying Prince Harry (‘cause we would get VIP tickets, of course). But it did happen without Camilla being my stepmother-in-law.

I got to watch, not one World Cup match, but FOUR. Actually, sitting here and writing this, I still can’t believe that it happened. Thank goodness I have tons of pictures, because when I’m old and gray, I could prove to myself that, yes, I was there when Messi and co. beat Korea Republic 4-1, when David Villa scored that goal from fifty yards out,

"El Guaje" warming up, Chile vs Spain group match

that I was sitting right alongside the goal when Asamoah Gyan missed that crucial penalty for Ghana and was in the fifth row, alongside the goal during that tortuous match between Spain and Paraguay.

The moment that almost gave me a heart attack, Spain vs. Paraguay QF at Ellis Park

And as if getting to watch wasn’t enough, I got to watch Spain. TWICE. Which brings me to…

2: Spain WINNING the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa: It was a two-fold dream come true. Not only did I get to watch the World Cup, but my beloved Spanish National Team deservedly won their first ever World Championship. And, really, like #1, I still can’t believe they did it, even when I watched every single second of every match, whether on the telly or in the stadium.

Viva España!

It’s amazing how something totally unrelated to me can make me this happy, but it did. And it still does.

3: My destined meeting with Andy Roddick: I guess it’s a theme, huh? As with #1, never in a million years did I think that I would actually get to meet Andy Roddick, much less get his picture and an autograph. But with what I can only and reluctantly describe as fate’s intervention, I did. And it’s a good thing I got a picture and the autograph for proof because I think I’ll be needing physical evidence of it actually happening, since it was so heartbreakingly unlikely to begin with.

4: Versailles: I guess among all my dreams that came true over this 18-month period, this was one of the more achievable ones, but that doesn’t make it any less special. I swore to myself I would visit the legendary chateau in my lifetime after watching Sofia Coppola’s screen adaptation of the Antonia Fraser biography of Marie Antoinette. I got my chance last, last August (in the summer too, when the seasonal features are open) and it was as grand and as beautiful as I imagined it to be. And while its beauty is surely reason enough to go, for the wannabe French history buff like me, Versailles’s historical significance is even a greater draw. The number of times my jaw dropped and the hairs on my arms stood on end at the sight paintings I only saw in books and of rooms I only saw in pictures were too many to count. And, yes, I must blog about the visit soon.

5: John Mayer in Manila: It had all the makings of a disastrous night, really (less than ideal location, less than engaging artist, RAIN) but it still turned out to be quite awesome. While a couple (or five) more songs would’ve made it a perfect night, hearing Edge of Desire, Heartbreak Warfare and Slow Dancing Room (aka the most heartbreaking song ever written) live made the long wait and the cold, wet rain well worth it.

So how can my 2011 top 2010 (and half of 2009)? If I get to go to Spain, watch the El Classico in the Bernabeu and Madrid beat Barcelona 7-0,  then get tickets to the Gentlemen’s Final at Wimbledon where Andy finally beats Federer then get tickets to the Backstreet Boys concert in Manila with ALL FIVE members performing, 2011 will for sure be better than 2010. But, barring that, 2010 has enough memories to keep me happy and grateful the next year… or decade.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Spanish team photo from FIFA.com

Andy Roddick and the F-word

A year ago today, I had one of my most improbable dreams come true. I finally saw Andy Roddick in person (“met” is a bit of stretch, as that would technically require a mutual introduction, so I won’t use that word). I am loathe to use this word with all its corny, romantic-comedy-movie implications, but I really do believe it was fate (yes, THAT f-word). And before you even start rolling your eyes and dismiss this as the musings of a pathetic, cheesy fan-girl, I urge you to hear me out. I shall lay down the facts and you be the judge if it was indeed fate/God’s will or not.

At around October of last year, I found out that I was to be sent to London for a week for work in November. Being the Andy Roddick stalker tennis fan that I am, I knew that the year-end tour championships were going to be held there that month. Which brings me to proof number one: the championships were going to be held the exact same week I was going to be in London. And, mind you, trips to London are few and far in between for our entire department at work, that I was the part of the 3-person team to be part of this trip is another point for my argument.

London (and Federer, Nadal, Andy, Novak), here I come!

I waited until Andy qualified for the Championships before purchasing my tickets. He was among the last two players to qualify, so I was on tenterhooks for a couple of weeks before the final confirmation that he will be playing in London. Upon hearing the news, I immediately purchased my tickets.

When my tickets finally arrived via FedEx, I actually screamed with delight. So imagine my heartbreak when Andy pulled out of the championships with a knee injury. I spent a considerable amount of money on the best tickets to four sessions (you’ll see why four below) just to get a chance of finally watching my favorite athlete play. I was, understandably, crushed.

And from utter heartbreak, there was a glimmer of hope. Proof number two: I saw this on Andy Roddick’s twitter account:

My glimmer of hope

Don’t get me wrong, I still knew that I had a snowball’s chance in hell of randomly bumping into Andy in, say, Oxford Street, or wherever. But having him in the same city as I was definitely increased my chances versus having him across the Atlantic, no?

So, anyway, I went ahead and watched the matches because (1) I wasn’t able to sell my tickets and (2) I did want to see Djokovic, Andy Murray, Federer and Nadal in the flesh (especially Nadal! Yumm! Haha.). I still harbored the teeniest glimmer of hope that Andy would have some promotional duties at the O2 Arena while I was there to watch the matches, but, like I said: snowball’s chance in hell.

I thought this was going to be my only sighting of Andy

But then it happened. I ashamedly admit that I dozed off more than once in my second row seat during the Djokovic vs. Davydenko match. But then, proof number three: I woke up to this on the big screen:

I swear, I stopped breathing for a second when I saw this

ANDY RODDICK. AT THE O2 ARENA. EXACTLY WHERE I WAS.

I felt like someone sucked all the air from the room. In a good way, of course. I was paralyzed in disbelief for about 10 seconds then got to work finding exactly where Andy was seated in an arena that held tens of thousands of people. I finally pinpointed where he was seated, thanks to the people pointing and that long-haired girl seated behind him. I actually had second thoughts on what I would do next but thank goodness I realized in time that I was being handed the opportunity of a lifetime. At the next changeover, I made a beeline for where he was seated.

I was shaking and my hands were getting clammy as I walked down to where Andy was seated. My breath was shallow as I took these pictures, and completely forgot that I had my flash on. After I took the second picture, Andy (and the unfortunate Italian man who had his face below my camera) gave me a rather annoyed look. But I was oblivious to it all. I still couldn’t believe that I was within 6 feet of a man whose career I’ve been following for almost seven years. ANDY RODDICK. Andy friggin’ Roddick!

I managed to snap out of my fan-girl daze long enough to try and get Andy’s autograph. I would post a picture of it here, but I have it on the ticket cover which has my name and address on it and that would be stupid (in a credit card fraud sense). And I got it not a moment too soon, because within seconds of getting it, Andy was whisked away by security to, I assume, a VIP box where he wouldn’t be accosted by flash-wielding fans like me.

He gave me an annoyed look after this... But a look is a look!

So I actually saw Andy, against all odds. He pulled out of the tournament, but still came to London. He was at the venue, the same night that I was there, watching the same match out of 15 possible matches (and those are just the singles matches) he could have picked.

Still not convinced that the F-word is applicable in this situation?

Then, how’s this for further proof: I purchased my tickets to maximize the number of players I get to watch. Since the orders of play are not published until the day before, there is no way to choose who you get to watch, unless you buy your tickets the night before. The way I set it up, I was, for sure, going to get to watch seven out of the eight players (just take my word for it). And I got to watch Federer, Nadal, Murray, Davydenko, Del Potro, Djokovic and Verdasco. The only player I didn’t get to watch (a.k.a. proof number four) was Robin Soderling, the man who replaced Andy Roddick when he pulled out. Meaning if Andy didn’t pull out of the tournament, I would not have watched him play.

So, is “fate” the right word for this or not?

Andy

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).

"It was just pure fighting. This was more about heart"

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.

Yes, I will admit, I have thought about photosopping my face into that picture

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