What is Andy Roddick thinking? The Australian Open is barely into the third round of play and he is already making news because of his temper. Yesterday, Roddick, who is known for both a wicked serve and loud mouth, yelled at chair umpire, Fergus Murphy, for calling a ball out that was later ruled in by the Hawkeye shot-spot system. To his credit, Roddick did wind up apologizing for his profanity-laced tirade, but in my opinion, damage was done. There is nothing wrong with debating a call, but as we saw last year with Serena Williams’ at the U.S. Open, when the debate includes profanity and gets personal, not only does the athlete in question usually lose but so do the fans of the game.
I grew up in the 1970s when John McEnroe routinely blasted umpires for what he thought were bad calls. And to be fair, most of the time they were. I must admit, that as a kid, I found McEnroe’s tantrums (you can add Jimmy Connors and Ille Nastase to that list too) entertaining and often, I tuned in just to see him lose his cool. But back then, I wasn’t really a fan of the game. Now, as both a fan and a player, I find these outbursts to be boorish and slightly embarrassing when done by an American. Tennis, thanks in part to the success of the Williams sisters, is no longer primarily viewed as a country club sport, played only by country club type folks. And that is a good thing. When the professional players act like entitled brats they set the sport back by reinforcing the elitist tag, and that, in my opinion, is a bad thing.
As an aside, it will be interesting to see what type of punishment Roddick receives for losing his cool. Serena Williams was fined $82,500 for threatening the line judge at last year’s U.S. Open and she was quoted this week as saying she did not believe that a male player, under similar circumstances, would have received the same penalty. “In tennis I think we’ve been able to do really well with having fought so hard to get equal prize money,” Williams said. “I think that’s really good. But I think we still sort of, say, live in a man’s world. Some incidents can bring you back to life and back into reality.”
I like to see Americans win, but as time goes by, care less and less if Andy Roddick is one of them. I prefer to root for the good guys, those who don’t reinforce the unflattering stereotypes. In a nutshell, I no longer find the bad behavior entertaining. How about you? Are you watching the Australian Open? If so, I’ve posted a poll below, please let me know who you think will win it all. I’ve included the top five seeds plus Roddick who is seeded seventh. Personally, I am rooting for John Isner. If not him, I hope Nadal wins the top prize.