SHANGHAI -- If there's one thing you can count on with Andy Roddick, it's that he tells it like it is. He pulls no punches. He doesn't whitewash the truth.
So it hardly surprised anyone that when asked for an assessment of his season this week at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, Roddick willingly admitted this will not be a year to remember. If he kept a scrapbook, he'd require only one page to record the good times in 2011.
"It's been tough," said Roddick, who reached the Shanghai third round Tuesday with a straight-sets win over Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. "It's been, I think, the toughest year I've had. I feel like I've been starting and stopping a lot."
Roddick, 29, arrived in Shanghai following a disastrous first-round exit to Kevin Anderson at the China Open in Beijing last week. The early Beijing loss was not his first disappointment of the season. His year has been peppered with illness and injury, including a winter bout with the flu, a midseason shoulder injury and an oblique tear after the Davis Cup in July.
After being a consistent top-10 performer -- he is a former No. 1 -- Roddick has been going in the wrong direction on the ranking road and now sits at No. 15. In 2010, he amassed a 48-18 win-loss record with titles at Brisbane and Miami. In 2011, he's at 29-13 with a lone title from Memphis.
When asked whether there was anything he could do in the final weeks of the year to salvage his season, Roddick said, "I think we're past 'acceptable' this year, to be honest. ... I think now it's about getting yourself in position to where you're not clawing completely uphill for the first four months of next year."
For Roddick, it's always about putting forth a conscientious effort on the court. He's a guy who'd rather be wheeled off the court than give up. That's made this year particularly unnerving for him -- he hasn't been able to prepare and play to that standard.
"I think the frustrating thing is a lot of times, when I've done the work, I haven't felt terrible about my tennis," he said. "But I've been unprepared a lot of the time this year."
It's no secret that many believe Roddick is a guy who failed to fulfill his potential. However, his more rabid fans believe he has offered his best and that best has been pretty darn special.
Yes, when it comes to the majors, he has only the 2003 U.S. Open spoils in his trophy chest. But he played admirably in four additional Grand Slam finals -- Wimbledon 2004, '05, '09 and the U.S. Open 2006. He's won 30 career titles to date and he's now won at least one title every year for 11 consecutive years.
That's hardly a shabby career effort for a guy who's still very definitely in the game.
At this juncture, however, there are those who wonder aloud as to just how much longer Roddick will remain in the tennis rat race. Here's one way to judge: He was hardly amused when a reporter last week in Beijing asked whether he was ready to retire.
The easy chair way of life isn't on his mind. He has big plans for next year, including the hope of playing in the 2012 Olympic Games. He skipped the 2008 Olympics in Beijing to prepare for the U.S. Open -- a decision he'd likely rethink if made today -- and he's determined to rectify that pass with an appearance in London.
Nevertheless, Roddick is accepting that he needs to realign his approach to the game. It's a decision he's made after conversations with his coach, Larry Stefanki, and U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier.
"Jim and I are pretty like-minded people," Roddick said. "He said, 'I ran myself into the ground. I overworked myself and I was done by 27, 28. You're heading down the same path. You need to kind of pull back a little bit.'"
The result is Roddick plans to streamline his training to a more effective, less demanding and more sensible regimen.
"You know, I'm going to probably have to adjust how I go about things a little bit more," Roddick said. "Running myself into a wall with work and everything else, I don't know that I can do that without getting hurt. It's happened numerous times this year. I might have to work smarter from now on."
Right now, Roddick still has a few weeks left to play in 2011. But he's already working out the appropriate course of action to facilitate being in prime shape for 2012.
"I'm looking forward to a six-seven-week period of time where I can work diligently, smartly, get treatment every day, and hopefully come back and kind of build myself into a position where I won't run into these problems for next year," he said.
And there's another interest that's recently emerged that suggests Roddick is still very keen on playing. He's turned politico. Accepting of elder statesman stature, he's becoming a key leader in a recent player call for reform.
Chief on Roddick's list of must-dos is a curtailed tennis season. He cited the fact that Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic had to pull out of the prestigious Shanghai tournament as proof of the need for a shorter calendar.
"Obviously, if they were feeling well and they weren't worn down, then they would [be here]," he said. "We're not getting away with anything by pulling out of tournaments. I feel like that's the way it's presented sometimes. That's just not the case."
With more tennis to play, and a personal declaration to leave the tour in a better place than where he initially found it, Roddick clearly is hoping to make some noise in 2012.