Andy and Novak

We made the argument this week that men’s tennis today is looking exactly like the golden age of women’s tennis from about eight years ago–its full of high quality tennis, rivalries and interesting characters. The only thing men’s tennis appeared to be missing was the Henin-Williams-sisters-type feud. And now it looks like men’s tennis has it.

Welcome, to Andy Roddick versus Novak Djokovic. Later tonight, at a little after 8:30 p.m., they’ll face off in the quarterfinals. But if you’ve been listening closely enough, you’ll notice some simmering tension.

In Djokovic’s last match, he made a big deal of his many ailments: a hip, an ankle, fatigue from a stomach problem. He called the trainer out too. Andy Roddick didn’t care much for it.

On Tuesday, when a reporter asked him about Novak’s ankle injury, Roddick unleashed a rather unsubtle attempt at sarcasm. "Isn’t it both of them? And a back and a hip? And a cramp? Bird flu. SARS. Common cough and cold."

The reporter was wondering what Roddick was implying. "You know, he’s either quick to call a trainer or he’s the most courageous guy of all time. I think it’s up for you guys to decide."

Yowza. Passive aggressive much?

And if you need a little context, look no further than the Saturday afternoon before the Open at Arthur Ashe Kids Day (video above). Roddick and Novak were hitting a rally on center court, with mics on, and Roddick suddenly challenged Novak to do some impressions, as he’s been known to do. Djokovic gamely did an impression of Roddick.

Roddick didn’t seem to react to it too kindly. Roddick promptly started doing an impession of Djokovic where he bounced a tennis ball over, and over, and over again on the baseline mimicking one of Novak’s tics. While Roddick bounced the ball, he added a little commentary and said, "I don’t know even know how you get through a day. You have to spend 12 hours a day doing…" and then he followed with more mock bounces.

At first, they were laughing. Then they weren’t.

They finished playing and greeted each other with a handshake at the net that had all the warmth of Eric Mangini and Bill Belichick’s post-match handshake from a few years ago, or, for you tennis nuts, the Serena Williams-Justine Henin handshake at the conclusion of the 2003 French Open semifinals. When both players came over for an interview with CBS, host Quddus Philippe slyly remarked to Djokovic, "You look a little relieved that you dodged that last serve because it looked like he was going for your head."