Steve Flink from Tennis Channel posted a fascinating interview with supercoach Larry Stefanki, who is widely credited with getting Andy Roddick within a point or two of Wimbledon glory against Roger Federer this year. Stefanki has some insightful and forthright analysis of the year’s best Major final, Roddick’s ongoing improvements and what he thinks is Andy’s very good chance at winning the next Australian Open. Click here to read the full interview, which is packed with encouraging stuff for Roddick fans.
Of course, I’m most interested in what Stefanki has to say about Roger Federer, the guy who just won’t give Andy Roddick a break. . .yet. Here are some of my fave excerpts:
Stefanki on how a “semi-tanking” Roger Federer turned around the second set tiebreaker in this year’s Wimbledon final:
“I thought Andy hit a great forehand pass up the line. Roger literally looked like he was semi-tanking. He was in no man’s land. He looked like [in his mind] the set was over. But he hit a half volley flick short angled inside the service box for a winner, and I thought, ‘Uh-oh, that is not a good sign because that frees Roger up.’ Here he had kind of sauntered over there for that half volley as if it was a routine shot, and it wasn’t routine at all. He could easily have dumped that shot in the net. That shot looked to me like a tank job, but he hit it clean as a whistle a la Johnny Mac and it went for a winner.”
Stefanki ponders why Roger Federer won’t “crack” against Andy Roddick:
“When he (Roddick) got to 15-40 at 8-8 in the fifth (set of Wimbledon), I felt the energy was flowing in his direction and he was going to win. I thought that was the one time where Roger actually might crack a la the Del Potro final at the U.S. Open. Andy said to me that Roger does it with some of the other guys but not necessarily with him, and I told him, ‘It is not about him playing you; it is about his mental state.’ After watching Roger in that fifth set of the Open in that match with Del Potro, it wasn’t even the same guy who played Andy at Wimbledon. He just competed like crazy at Wimbledon, and at the Open it was like he was giving it to the other guy in the fifth. I told Andy that in sports there are opportunities, and his day will come.”
(My unconsidered analysis: Wimbledon just means more to Federer than all three of the other Majors combined – except for this year’s French, where Roger also “competed like crazy” to get through.)
Stefanki schools Federer after the Wimbledon final:
“In the locker room after the match, Roger said, ‘I really think in this situation it would have been nice to have two winners.’ And I said, ‘Yes, dude, but that is not sports.’ There is going to be a winner and a loser, but that was the purest form of competition I have seen in a long time. That is the beauty of sport and the way Andy handled it was so classy. I was very proud to be associated with him as his coach and his friend.”
Gosh, can someone get me my own Larry Stefanki pep-talk for Christmas?
“This is the greatest group (of tennis players) since the early or middle 1980’s, as good as it has been for 25 years. The gap has really closed between Roger and Rafa and the rest of the guys. There is not going to be one or two guys winning every major anymore. It is going to be a dog fight, a coin flip. That is why if you are ready and fresh mentally like Andy is going to be in 2010 after having a couple of months off, the sky is the limit. He knows a lot of the other players are burnt out now. Mentally a lot of them are fried. Andy is going to be ready for the Australian Open and if the door is open and there is a little bit of a crack in their form and they are not prepared in the heat, Andy will take advantage of it. The way I view it is he is in the final quarter of a football game and he has played three quarters. He has one left for his career and it is going to be the best quarter of all for him the next four years.”
I like Stefanki’s quip about Roger “floating down” to the Australian Open in January. And I’m always up for a little trash talk:
“Winning a major is the whole gig. It is what a guy like Andy plays for. That is what we will try to really focus on is for him to be mentally and physically prepared for the Grand Slam tournaments so when an opportunity arises he is there to snatch it. Andy is as fit as anyone out there, especially for seven rounds, best of five sets at a major. He is really eager and has had time off and these other guys are spent. Roger will float down there and do well but Del Potro is spent and Murray is kind of going,’Gee, I can’t believe we are starting another year already.’ Davydenko and Djokovic played so much tennis at the end of this year. Andy is ready and I like that.“
Now it’s time for your expert opinion: