What happened in the first round Davis Cup match between Andy Roddick of the U.S. and Andrei Pavel of Romania is bad news for Justine Henin-Hardenne. We’ve been going back and forth about Henin-Hardenne’s default in the Australian Open final with Amelie Mauresmo for a few days now. Was she too sick to keep playing or did she default because she knew she couldn’t win thus taking away Mauresmo’s winning moment? Should everyone just leave her alone and give her the benefit of the doubt since she’s a four time grand slam winner?

What happened in the first round Davis Cup match between Andy Roddick of the U.S. and Andrei Pavel of Romania is bad news for Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Andy Roddick was chugging along against Pavel winning the first two sets 7-6(2), 6-2. The first hint of a problem came in the third set tiebreaker when Roddick called a trainer to treat tightness in his right forearm. Serving with match point in the tiebreaker, he hit a big serve that everyone in the place, including his opponent, took for an ace and the end of the match. But it wasn’t, it was out. After a second serve, Pavel hit a drop shot to draw Roddick in then hit a beautiful topspin lob over his head and held on to win the third set.

In the fourth set, things turned even more desperate. Down 1-2, Roddick sat down on the changeover, pulled over a tall trash can and vomited. Henin-Hardenne evidently did not feel like vomiting when she got an upset stomach in Australia, but maybe it would have been better if she had because then we could have been convinced that she was, indeed, too ill to continue.

Except that players don’t stop for something as trifling as vomiting. Pete Sampras upchucked on the court and won the match. Andy Murray drank too much sports drink and left it on the court. He didn’t win but he did finish the match.

Roddick went down 1-4 before winning another game but he was trying to put every ball away so he could get back to his seat as soon as possible. After losing the fourth set and losing his serve in the first game of the fifth set, out came the trash can again and the trainer too. Roddick had abdominal cramps and the trainer tried to massage them away.

Roddick came back onto the court and promptly broke Pavel’s serve to even the set. Pavel didn’t give it to him, Roddick hit two winners and forced an error with a good low return even though he was moving terribly. Players not only manage to play with an upset stomach, they also manage to win some games.

Roddick lost his serve two more times – by now he had upchucked again and was doubled over between points. But he got one of the breaks back and held serve to get to 4-5. Roddick got to 30-30 on Pavel’s serve before hitting a forehand into the net to give Pavel his first match point.

What is happening here, is the U.S. going down in the first round like they did against Croatia last year? Unpredictable things happen in Davis Cup matches because this is the one time that players work together as a team and the team represents their country. The energy can bring play to a level that is greater than the sum of its parts and it can push a player to raise their game to great heights. Today it’s pushing Andy Roddick to go deep inside himself and find a way to keep fighting despite acute physical discomfort.

Pavel nervously hit an error on his first match point and Roddick passed him down the line to save the second. On the third match point, Pavel came in one more time to put the pressure on and Roddick dumped a passing shot into the net. Pavel had won, 6-7(2), 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-2, 6-4. James Blake and the Bryan brothers will have to take over until Roddick can straighten himself out on Sunday.

As painful as it was, this match might have a positive effect on Roddick. Even though he’s number three in the world, he hasn’t been winning big matches and everyone, including Roddick, is panicking. He lost to Marcos Baghdatis in the fourth round at the Australian Open and got bumped out of last year’s U.S. Open in the first round by Gilles Muller.

If Roddick had any questions about his heart before today, he should not have any now. But the questions about Justine will continue.

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