Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Leave it All on the Court - Er, Page.




Andy Roddick is one of my role models. No, not because I have any outlandish dreams of becoming a professional tennis player. I’m thirty years old, with bad knees. And I’m not that good at tennis. He is one of my role models in my outlandish dream of becoming a published author.


Stay with me, here. Last night, I propped open my eyelids until two in the morning, riveted to a tennis match in Melbourne, Australia. Roddick played for a spot in the semi-finals of the year’s first major tournament. After the first set, which he lost in a tiebreak, Roddick called the trainer and took an injury time out. My stomach churned, because Andy isn’t prone to calling the trainer. He’s tough. Something had to be wrong.


He came back for a second set but his opponent trounced him. Roddick looked to be in a fair amount of discomfort – if not pain – and had trouble mustering energy. At the close of the second set, while the trainer worked on his shoulder again, it looked to be all but over. (For tennis newbies – men must win 3 out of 5 sets to secure a match.) The announcers wondered aloud whether or not Roddick would retire from the match because of the injury. Players do that. It’s allowed. Justine Henin, number one in the world a few years ago, retired in the middle of a Grand Slam FINAL because of a STOMACHACHE (she was losing). Last year, Novak Djokovic retired in a Quarterfinal because it was TOO HOT (he was losing). Last night, Rafa Nadal retired because of a nagging knee injury. He was down two sets and it “was impossible to win the match.” Yes, tennis players retire, give up, throw in the towel – but not Andy Roddick.

Then something happened. Roddick started to figure things out, bringing a tight game despite a half-empty arsenal. Evidence of the pain lined his face, but he pushed it aside. He won the third set. Then the fourth. His opponent made costly errors, staring across the net as though Roddick might be a specter come back from the dead. Maybe he expected Roddick to roll over and die, to give in to the pain and injury. If he did, then he doesn’t know Andy Roddick. Through the third and fourth sets, the announcers used words like, ‘fighter’, and ‘gutsy’ to describe Andy. Words like those are often thrown around when referring to the American.


Roddick lost in the fifth set, but not for lack of heart or spirit. He battled through the pain, even though he knew – we all knew – his chances of stealing the victory were slim. His spirit might be wounded after the loss, but his pride shouldn’t be. Andy has been down before, even considered retiring less than two years ago. His career is solid. Besides Roger Federer, he’s the only man on the tour to have remained in the top 10 since 2002. There are a couple of things he really wants though: another Grand Slam title, and a Wimbledon Championship. So he hired a new coach, dropped weight, adjusted his style, worked harder. 2009 was a great year and he looks to be on the right track. I know I’m rooting for the guy.


Andy has learned to handle rejection. Last night, a giant, gangly, 21 year old Croatian rejected him. Last July, Roger Federer dealt a crushing rejection in a Wimbledon final Roddick deserved to win. I only watched it, and the loss hurt me for hours after. It must have brought Andy to his knees, made him wonder if maybe he should quit. But he didn’t. He kept practicing, staying fit, and working on bolstering belief in himself. Roddick might never win another Grand Slam or hold that trophy at Wimbledon. Maybe everyone else is too good, or he’s too old, or his body will give out before he gets there. One thing I know for sure, though. If he fails, it won’t be because he didn’t fight. When Andy Roddick leaves a tennis court, win or lose, the surface is stained with his guts, pain, sweat, and tears.


As an aspiring writer, I see many parallels to my own travels along the path of dreams. Andy Roddick inspires me. I will take the rejections, change my approach, learn, work harder. I might never be a successful author – or even a published one. But if the day comes when I decide to walk away and try something new, no one will be able to say I didn’t fight. My keyboard will be stained with my guts, pain, sweat, and tears. So thank you, Andy, for reminding us that when it comes to our dreams, playing the game isn’t enough. You have to do it with heart.
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12 comments:

  1. Great post! I'm in the same boat. I may not ever get where I want, but I sure know I gave it my all. What's that they always say about the journey vs the destination? It's the truth.

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  2. Awesome post! But as someone who's read your work, you've got a great chance. Keep fighting!

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  3. Great post! Just got slammed pretty darn hard myself today and was feeling disheartened (querying really bites, doesn't it? *sigh*) but your post has helped to re-energize me. Thanks! And good luck in your writing journey.

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  4. wonderful post! I'm right there with you fighting. :-)

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  5. That match was just...gut-wrenching - even more so than the Wimbledon Final last year, I think. God bless Roddick for stickin' with it - they say you'll always fail at least as much as you succeed, and it's how you deal with the failures that determines the frequency of the successes! (And glad to see another tennis fan AND book lover!)

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  6. Mental strength counts for 90%. It's worth mentioning Roddick got to that match by surviving against Gonzalez in a situation where, technically, Roddick probably should have lost. But Roddick refused to lose and Gonzalez eventually crumpled in what was purely a failure of confidence.

    I'm often amazed too how top players, even when they're down 3 or 4 break points, can still serve their best and play at the same risk level.

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  7. This was a sweet post. Thanks Trisha.

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  8. Oh, well done. Fantastic post, good lady. Inspiring!

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  9. It's amazing the stories you hear about people who work through pain because they have a goal they won't walk away from. What a great example of it in action. Thanks for the post, nice to get a reminder of why we keep pushing. :)

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  10. What a great post! And I loooooove Andy. I'm so glad I found your blog!

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  11. Hey hon! I left you a prize on my blog!

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  12. Hi! I bounced over from Anne Riley's blog to say hello and to congratulate you on the award you won over there. I love your posts, here! :-)

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