(Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of updates on players who either played in last year’s Winston-Salem Open or have committed to playing in this year’s tournament.)
By John Delong
When Andy Roddick came to the inaugural Winston-Salem Open last August, he was looking to get some matches under his belt after battling an assortment of injuries, and was looking to build some momentum going into the US Open.
He accomplished both missions by advancing to the WSO semifinals, where he lost to eventual champion John Isner.
Now fast-forward to last week’s AEGON International at Eastbourne, England.
Again the former world No. 1 needed match experience, after a six-match losing streak that dated to the Sony Ericsson Open in March. Again he was trying to round into form after battling a hamstring injury most of the spring. Again he was looking to build some momentum going into Wimbledon.
Consider it mission accomplished again as the 29-year-old won five straight matches en route to the 31st ATP World Tour title of his career.
He earned the trophy with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Andreas Seppi in the final.
It was an milestone accomplishment in two ways. By winning his first tournament of the year, Roddick extended his streak of winning at least one tournament per year to 12 straight years, matching Roger Federer for the longest streak among active players. And by beating Seppi, he notched the 600th win of his career, making him one of only 19 men in the Open Era to do so.
"I wanted to keep alive winning one tournament a year for the last 12 years," Roddick told reporters at Eastbourne. "I know that three or four people have done that. I needed to remind myself of those numbers just to remember this is a what-did-you-do-last-week type sport. So looking back on that, maybe I need to look at those a little more and realize that I’ve done this for a long time pretty well."
Roddick goes into Wimbledon as only the No. 30 seed, but with far more confidence than before Eastbourne began. Remember, he thrives on grass and is a three-time Wimbledon finalist, the most recent in 2009 when he lost a classic 16-14 fifth set to Federer.
"I’ll go into Wimbledon with some wins behind me and some confidence on a surface I’m very comfortable on, so I feel like I got my game back a little this week," he said.
Before entering Eastbourne, his last win had come when he beat Federer in the round of 32 at the Sony Ericsson. He missed most of the clay court season with the hamstring, lost three straight matches in the Power Horse World Team Championships in a French Open tune-up and went out to Nicolas Mahut in the first round at Roland Garros.
To his credit, he never offered the injury as an excuse and steadfastly insisted that he was healthy again going into Roland Garros.
Then the losing streak had continued as he lost to Edouard Roger-Vasselin in his first match on grass at Queens Club two weeks ago.
Roddick admitted he was pleasantly surprised to win at Eastbourne.
"The thing that makes sports great is there is no script," he said. "You can draw it up, and it rarely works out that way. I think as I’ve gotten older, I guess I’ve learned to appreciate this a little bit more. I went from a six-match losing streak to all of a sudden winning a tournament. It is a 180 degree turnaround."
With 600 career match wins, Roddick has joined an elite fraternity.
Jimmy Connors is the all-time leader in the Open Era with 1242 career wins. Others with more than 600 wins, in order, are Ivan Lendl, Guillermo Vilas, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Federer, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Ilie Nastase, Boris Becker, Brian Gottfried, Michael Chang, Manuel Orantes, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Thomas Muster, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Bjorn Borg. Roddick should pass Borg’s 608 later this summer.
"My whole career I’ve been very good about winning matches I’m supposed to win and winning close matches and getting through them somehow," Roddick said. "As good as I have been in my career so far, I have been that bad in those scenarios this year for whatever reason. But this week I was able to close well."
Roddick is one of six players who have formally committed to this year’s Winston-Salem Open, joining Isner, Alexandr Dolgopolov, James Blake, Donald Young and Kevin Anderson.