Iconic Photo: Roddick, the nearly man of Wimbledon
The agony and ecstasy. Promotion, relegation. Winners and losers. Sport is full of polar opposites. Where there is a winner, sport dictates that there must also be a loser. In this picture by Julian Finney those extremes of sport are highlighted perfectly.
In 2009 And Roddick lost to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final. Despite the 2003 US Open win, the 2007 Davis Cup triumph and the 32 titles, A-Rod’s career could have been so different. “I’m the most successful bad player ever”, is his own assessment of his career and those three Wimbledon final defeats say that he couldn’t be more right.
Wimbledon and Roddick seem to go hand in hand. He made no secret of the fact it was his favourite Grand Slam, and the one he most desperately yearned to win. His game suited the grass at the All England Club and the fans at Wimbledon welcomed the American with open arms.
The devastation of a third final loss to Federer is clear to see, and contrasted so beautifully with the arms aloft celebration of Federer, complete with a personalised jacket bearing the number 15 (to celebrate his 15th Grand Slam Title). Roddick is the one in focus in the photograph, despite being the loser. His somewhat disheveled appearance, with baseball cap and untied laces, compared to the suave, pristine appearance of Federer, highlights the gulf between the winner and the loser.
Instead of a generic image of Federer celebrating the trophy, this photo tells the true story of the match. It was a match Roddick should, and could have won. Leading by one set to love, he had set point in the second set tie break to take a two sets to love lead, inexplicably he shot a volley wide with the whole court begging. Such are the fine margins of sport, on which the outcome of a match can swing.
The truth of the matter was that Roddick played that 2009 final better than some people have played to win a Wimbledon title. He lost 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14. Yet it still wasn’t enough, and this photograph captures that realisation perfectly. Federer in that moment feels as if he is surrounded by friends as he soaks in the applause of the crowd. Whereas Roddick, depsite being surrounded by thousands who no doubt are sympathising with him, must feel like the lonliest man on earth.
Always one to plump for the underdog, and despite him knocking out my beloved Andy Murray in the semi finals, I remember watching the match willing Roddick over the line and feeling gutted for him. If I was gutted I can only imagine how awful he felt.
But such is the beauty of sport, it's why we love it, the agony and heartbreak is part of the joy, (just don't tell Andy Roddick that).