Which way's up, Andy?

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If it's progression you're looking for, I'm not so sure we're seeing it right now from one Andy Roddick.

The American slugger is fresh off a very disappointing loss against his previously-underachieving countryman Robby Ginepri in Indianapolis, where Ginepri staved off three match points before stunning Roddick in 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5 fashion in the quarterfinals at the RCA Championships. Ginepri hadn't beaten Roddick in their previous six meetings and was a head-shaking 10-14 overall this season prior to Indy.

The top-seeded Roddick was the two-time defending champion at the RCA event, where he was a perfect 12-0 before running into Ginepri, who surprisingly went on to capture the title by beating an overheated Taylor Dent in an all-American final. Dent retired in the third set of the finale, inspired by some oppressive midwest heat.

The 22-year-old Roddick is a respectable third in this year's ATP Race and fourth in the official world rankings (with Marat Safin very close behind), but I really don't see the massive-serving star improving his overall game.

Sure, Roddick reached the Wimbledon final for a second straight year, only to lose to the amazing Roger Federer once again. But how much does that prove right now, considering the current depth (or lack thereof) of grass-court specialists on the circuit? And his loss against the "Fed" at the All England Club earlier this month was not of the close variety.

Andy Roddick
Roddick is a combined 2-15 lifetime against fellow top guns Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt.
You could argue that if it wasn't for Federer, the six-year pro Roddick might own at least a pair of Wimbledon titles (lost to Federer at Wimbledon the last three years, including two straight finals).

Roddick is a quality 39-9 this season, with three titles, but none of the championships have come at Grand Slams or Masters Series events. He ran the table at Houston (yawn), Queen's Club (yawn) and San Jose (I'm asleep).

My question is: Has Roddick leveled out?

The 2003 year-end No. 1 appears to be slipping. After closing out '03 atop the ATP rankings, Roddick finished 2004 at No. 2 and currently finds himself at No. 4. None of these numbers are bad, mind you, but you can certainly see a pattern developing.

Roddick fired coach Brad Gilbert late last year and replaced him with Dean Goldfine, but what does the Nebraska native have to show for that move thus far? The 6-foot-2 star has yet to beat any of the game's upper-echelon studs this year (i.e. the Federers, the Hewitts, etc.).

What's his biggest victory of 2005? His trio of titles this season have come via finals victories over world No. 59 Cyril Saulnier in San Jose, No. 34 Sebastien Grosjean in Houston and 74th-ranked Ivo Karlovic at Queen's Club.

Yes, he's only lost the nine matches this year, but two of the setbacks are against up-and-down Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and another just came against the seemingly-flatlining Ginepri.

Getting back to the world No. 1 and three-time Wimbledon champion Federer, Roddick is a dismal 1-9 lifetime against the supreme Swiss, including losses in their last five meetings.

And how does he fare against the third-ranked Hewitt, you say? How 'bout 1-6 all-time, including three straight setbacks. That makes him a combined 2-15, including eight straight losses, against two of the three players currently ahead of him in the rankings.

Heck, while we're at it, he's a brutal 1-5 lifetime against Andre Agassi, who currently rests at sixth on the ledger.

Roddick is, however, 1-1 versus one of the game's brightest young stars, world No. 2 French Open champion Rafael Nadal, and 3-2 against the fifth-ranked Aussie Open titlist Safin.

Is Roddick a one-hit wonder...the 2003 U.S. Open?

He has also won three Masters Series events in his still-young career, but the last one came in Miami in early 2004.

Obviously you can forget about him ever excelling on red clay, while he'll continue to remain a threat whenever he's on his beloved hardcourts or grass.

Roddick was a pedestrian 3-3 on red dirt this year, including losses in three of his last four outings on the demanding surface.

I'm not suggesting by any means that A-Rod's washed up. Far from it. But I am, perhaps, suggesting that he's about as good as he's gonna get. I think he's still lacking in his return game, his play at the net, and, of course, his creativity.

Roddick decided against playing in Los Angeles this week due to a "sore knee." Clearly he opted for a week off.

"This is ridiculous, the schedule we're expected to play, year in and year out," Roddick said. "The last two years, I overcame it; this year, I didn't."

There was a lot of hype surrounding Roddick a few years ago, but it's safe to say for now that he's a far cry from such American legends as Pete Sampras, Agassi, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Heck, the aforementioned Gilbert (20) still owns more career titles than A-Rod (18). Okay...that was a cheap shot.

By the way, what's with that picture of Gilbert on the ATP site?

Roddick will be among the contenders when the U.S. Open gets underway next month, but I'd consider him a pretender if he has to play Federer or his fellow former world No. 1 Hewitt.

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Scott Riley
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