MELBOURNE, Australia — Sam Querrey kept insisting the other day that he was "the No. 2 American."
The 20th seed was deferring to John Isner, the 13th-ranked player who withdrew from the Australian Open with a lingering knee injury.
But you would be forgiven if the mind jumped elsewhere.
Such protestations were common from the corps of Yanks that came of age in the Andy Roddick era.
Even when he was no longer atop the national leaderboard, Roddick's peers always maintained he was top dog.
Now that he is missing for good — Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and former No. 1, pulled the plug on his career at last year's U.S. Open — his presence on the collective American tennis psyche still looms large.
"Even though his ranking wasn't reflecting it the last couple of years he was a huge draw and a marquee player," said Bob Bryan, part of the top-ranked doubles duo with twin brother Mike Bryan.
Ryan Harrison, 20, said the smaller locker room shared by most Americans was noticeably quieter last weekend because Roddick wasn't glued to the set barking out commentary at the NFL playoffs showing on TV.
"You can tell he's not in the locker room, that's for sure," said Harrison, who lost to top-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in the second round Wednesday. "He's certainly a presence whenever he's in there."
Querrey, who advanced to the third round when compatriot Brian Baker retired leading 7-6 (7-2), 1-1 with a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee, said Roddick continued to pepper the guys with electronic encouragement.
"He still keeps in touch, texts us — 'Great job, good luck,'" said Querrey. "It's a little different. We miss him. I think it'll kick in more when we're three, four months into the year......read more