By Randy Walker
Novak Djokovic played close to a perfect match Tuesday to knock Andy Roddick out of the 2012 Olympics, defeating the former world No. 1 6-2, 6-1 in the second round.
The No. 2 ranked Serb smacked an incredible 33 winners against six unforced errors over the 54-minute match played under the roof on Wimbledon’s Centre Court. The 2011 Wimbledon champion successfully executed 29 first serves in the match, 14 of them being aces and winning 25 of those 29 points. Roddick was only able to win 10 points on Djokovic’s serve during the remarkably quick match.
“His serve has been the story of this match,” said Justin Gimelstob on Bravo TV in the final game of the match. “Absolutely incredible.”
Djokovic was quick to agree with Gimelstob.
“I served extremely well in these two opening matches,” he said courtside after the match to Gimelstob on Bravo TV in the United States. “Serving a lot of aces and getting a lot of free points on my serve helps my game.”
Roddick seemed resigned to his fate in the match, accepting that there was not much he could do against the man who won three of the four major tournaments and posted a 70-6 won loss record in 2011. After shaking hands with Djokovic at the net, Roddick grabbed his racquet bag and swiftly walked of the court, without placing his racquet in his bag. With his head bowed the entire way off the court, Roddick raised the racquet in his hand over his head acknowledging the crowd’s applause. It was a different scene than a month before when Roddick left Centre Court after his third-round Wimbledon loss to David Ferrer, where he enthusiastically waved and clapped to the crowd, hinting that the American was bidding adieu to Centre Court and Wimbledon.
While some have speculated that Roddick may be close to retiring from professional tennis, he has won 11 of his last 12 matches entering the Olympics, including the 31st and 32nd singles titles of his career in Eastbourne and Atlanta. Roddick will turn 30 years old on August 30 and is ranked No. 21 in the world this week. He finished ranked outside of the top 10 rankings last year for the first time in 10 years while also ceding the top perch in American men’s tennis to good friend Mardy Fish (Roddick is now the No. 3 ranked American behind his 2012 Olympic doubles partner John Isner and Fish.)
Djokovic’s victory was as empathic over an established player as he has had in a while. After an incredible 2011 season that featured victories at the US Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open, Djokovic has not been able to exactly replicate his results – and aura – that he gained in 2011. After losing to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final, falling one match shy of completing a career Grand Slam – and being the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at one time – Djokovic lost the world No. 1 ranking to Roger Federer after the Swiss won Wimbledon a month ago, beating him in the semifinals. Djokovic, however, rises to the occasion when taking on the responsibility of playing for his nation. Many attribute his incredible 2011 season to his inspiration of leading Serbia to the Davis Cup title late in 2010.
“For a professional athlete who is used to attending tournaments as an individual, representing their country at events like Davis Cup and Olympics will create an indescribable feeling,” said Djokovic, who carried Serbia’s flag in the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday night. “The atmosphere of the Games is unparalleled, you create a team spirit, from the ceremony to the Olympic village, and we’re participating in all competitions.”
The Olympics seem like just the stage for Djokovic to recapture some of the tennis limelight that he so seems to enjoy.