Roddick voices concern about tennis popularity

WASHINGTON: Absence might make the heart grow fonder but US tennis star Andy Roddick has a question for those who govern his sport - How can people miss tennis if it won't go away? Fifth-ranked Roddick lost to Argentina's sixth-ranked Juan Martin Del Potro 3-6, 7-5 7-6 (8/6) in Sunday's final of the ATP Washington Classic, his first event since a five-set loss to Roger Federer in last month's Wimbledon final.

Roddick is preparing for the start of the US Open in three weeks even as many US sports fans are excited about pre-season American football games, a sign of the sport's return following a six-month break after the Super Bowl.

"That's something that's severely lacking in tennis," Roddick said. "It would benefit the sport to not be so short-sighted and give people time to miss the sport." Golf has seen the wisdom of an off-season, with the US PGA Tour Championship in late September marking the conclusion of the campaign for top players until January.

Roddick would not mind seeing a compressed Davis Cup at one site but sees the benefits to growing tennis in certain nations by hosting Cup ties. He also sees the ATP and International Tennis Federation looking out for themselves.

"Everyone has a vested interest," he said. "It's too many hands doing their own deal." One change Roddick wants that has a better chance of taking place is that of a formal time limit on making challenges of line calls in matches.

Umpires decide if a request has been made in time or not. Interpretations can be inconsistent and there are some moments when a challenge can be seen as a stall tactic.

"You should have to make the challenge immediately," Roddick said. "It leads to some awkward moments on court. It would be a lot easier if there were some standards to follow." Roddick credits improved fitness for superior positioning and court speed that have enhanced his game this season, his confidence growing by the day.

"It's a lot easier to hit a passing shot when you can get to it," Roddick said. "I'm moving better than I have in my career. The game has become more about legs." Tall power servers were once feared to be taking over tennis but Roddick sees how skilled shotmakers, mid-size scramblers, smaller speedsters and even not-so-huge serve masters have found their place even as players get larger.

"There is definitely room for all sorts," Roddick said. "The game is getting bigger and stronger but I don't think that's unique to tennis. You are seeing bigger, better athletes."