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Legg Mason Tennis Classic

Legg Mason Tennis Classic: Hard work has kept Andy Roddick around

David Nalbandian wins a Legg Mason Tennis Classic tournament notable for the lack of success American men had during the event.

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By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 2, 2010

Even before last year's loss to Roger Federer in the longest, most soul-sapping singles final in Wimbledon history, Andy Roddick wondered if his best had passed him by.

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The only way to find out, he decided at a particularly low point in the summer of 2008, was to keep working.

And that may well prove the legacy of Roddick's career, remembered as the player who poured as much effort into slogging away at the daily drudgery of professional tennis as he did reveling in its spoils.

At 27, Roddick is far from retirement, to be sure. But after a decade as a touring pro, the ethic of his career is well established.

If ever a millionaire athlete married to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model could be mistaken for a working-class guy, Roddick is it.

A weepy-eyed U.S. Open champion at 21, Roddick didn't shirk from the fact that the two strokes on which that triumph was built -- his massive serve and booming forehand -- wouldn't be enough to sustain a career.

And he hasn't flinched at the work required -- whether physical or mental -- to retool his game and wring the most out of his talent during an era in which the standard for greatness has been elevated, in turn, by the best clay-court player the sport has seen (Rafael Nadal) and the most prodigiously gifted (Federer).

"Most players who play tennis love the game," Roddick said in an interview this week. "But I think you also have to respect it. You want to do everything you can in your power to do your best. And for me, I know I get insane guilt if I go home at the end of the day and don't feel I've done everything I can. If I know I could have done something better, I have this uneasy feeling. And it doesn't go away."

So there Roddick was Sunday, slugging away on a side court at Washington's William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in preparation for the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, which gets under way in earnest on Monday.

Meantime, Center Court was reserved for lesser known players attempting to qualify for the 48-player field -- youngsters and journeymen who'd love nothing more than to reach the heights Roddick has (among them: world No. 1 in 2003, $18.5 million in career earnings, lucrative endorsements and a star turn as host of "Saturday Night Live.")

The Legg Mason marks a familiar point on Roddick's calendar. He's competing for the ninth time, having won it in 2001, 2005 and 2007. This year, as in many years past, it offers a welcome return to hard-court tennis, where Roddick's game is most imposing, and a well-timed staging ground for an assault on the U.S. Open.

If constancy is a tennis player's reward, Roddick is a rich man. He's the only player other than Federer to have finished among the top 10 for the last eight years.

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