Saturday, September 5, 2009

World Champion Weekend: Andy Roddick

Over the year and change I covered sports for, I never hesitated to shamelessly admit my particular admiration (and adoration) for a special few individuals in the world of sports, and would always make a point to include them in my pieces. One of these fantastic few favorites of mine was (and will always be) one Andy Roddick: American tennis pro extraordinaire, ex of Mandy Moore, alumnus of every teen beat mag, famously uneven of temper...and, until relatively recently, apparently well on his way to slumping into obscurity. Even a brutally hot 2007 cover of Men's Fitness turned out to be more controversial than career-boosting when Roddick himself mused that the magazine appeared to have enhanced his image beyond what he could rightfully claim as his own (but oh how I still love it anyway).

(The infamous Men's Fitness cover)

Then came a new coach in December 2008, and a new bride in April 2009, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, and suddenly things began to change.

(Roddick and then-fiancee Decker)

Photos of Roddick practicing shirtless before the Australian Open in January showed a newly buffed up young firebrand unlike Roddick had ever been seen; though he was not expected to perform nearly as well, he made it to the final by outlasting defending champ Novak Djokovic in nearly four sets in record-breaking heat, although he lost the final match to Roger Federer. Roddick's shining moment would come later, though, in a rematch with Federer in the final round at Wimbledon in July: the five sets in that matchup had even casual tennis fans twittering in astonishment, and while Roddick was again defeated 16-14 in the final set, he nevertheless set a record for games won at Wimbledon at 39.

Roddick goes into the US Open as the fifth seed in the world, and advanced to the second round Monday night with a sweep of 84th ranked Bjorn Phau of Germany, followed by a win over unseeded Marc Guigel of France on Thursday. I couldn't be rooting for him harder, especially since there's maybe one other tennis pro who can even compete with Roddick in aesthetics (and no, I don't mean "long, greasy hair" Nadal or "hissy fit" Djokovic, and definitely not "boy is he ugly" Federer; I mean Brit Andy Murray, one of the few Englishmen who has had the distinction of ever outranking David Beckham in a desirability poll in that country, albeit only once). Down with Federer: up with this hard-working comeback story!

In honor of my singular affection for the Incredible Mr. Roddick and his current attempt to solidify his dazzling resurgence into prominence, here is the first of no doubt several collections of images so that you might enjoy him in new ways as I have done for years.

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