Re: Andy's Life After Retirement Thread
“A Life More Ordinary”
After 13 years as a top professional tennis player, Andy Roddick steps away from the game to focus on the next chapter of his life.
By Erin Quinn
Austin Monthly magazine, June, 2013
On a warm April evening at the Barton Creek Country Club, the Darrell Royal Ballroom is packed with folks dressed in their kitschy ’80s best. There’s a Run-DMC lookalike, Marty from Back to the Future and a pregnant woman wearing a gigantic Rubik’s Cube around her bump. Even radio show host Bobby Bones, who is there as emcee, has joined in, doing his best Michael Jackson impersonation in a sparkly fedora, white glove and tight leather pants. They are all here to support newly retired pro tennis star Andy Roddick in his latest endeavor: transitioning his Andy Roddick Foundation from a “pass-through” charity into a foundation that develops and inspires underserved children through sports-based mentoring and education. This party, and a celebrity golf tournament the next day, are the first new events the foundation has thrown since Roddick announced his retirement on Aug. 30, 2012—his 30th birthday.
The Young Gun
Driving to meet Roddick for an interview is a tad nerve-wracking. The Nebraska native, who lived in Austin from the ages of 4-11, moved to Florida for better training and then moved back to Austin in 2003, is known for his smarts, work ethic, wit—and bite, especially when talking to reporters. “You can’t really get much by him,” says Tennis magazine’s veteran senior editor Pete Bodo, who has been covering Roddick’s career from the very start. “One time, Doug Robson of USA Today, an outstanding fellow and writer, made the mistake of calling him a ‘one-slam wonder,’ which is an expression in tennis for a guy who maybe won a Grand Slam in the past but never won anything else, and Andy took umbrage at that. For quite a long time after that, he was pretty snotty whenever he ran into Doug. He definitely has an edge, there’s no question about it. But the thing is, you can’t fly anything by him; you can’t bullsh*t him, essentially. To his credit, I don’t think he bullsh*ts you, either.”
When I meet him at the ARF facilities on Austin’s East Side, he greets me with a handshake and a big smile. “I’m Andy,” he says. Nothing is off-limits during our interview, and we discuss everything from his tennis career and his wife of four years, actress Brooklyn Decker, to his evolving foundation, how he’s adjusting to retirement and where he loves to hang out in Austin.
Dressed in jeans, a light sweater and his signature ball cap, the 6-foot-2 Roddick is relaxed yet straightforward and concise with his answers. Does he miss anything about tennis? “I’ll see a night match, with the electricity in the air, and that makes me jealous for about five seconds,” he says. “Until I realize that it takes about two weeks of travel to get there, acclimatize, settle in—there’s a lot that goes into that two or three-hour moment.”
A-Rod, as he’s nicknamed in tennis circles, had plenty of those moments in his 13 seasons as a professional tennis player. He turned pro in February 2000, after winning the Australian Open Junior Championship. He was only 17, but he already had a killer serve and top-notch forehand. That year, he played two matches against his idol, Andre Agassi (he lost both), and his big serve drew comparisons to Pete Sampras. With no other American teenagers making waves, Roddick was anointed the future of U.S. men’s tennis.
He lived up to that title pretty quickly by winning the US Open in 2003, mere days after turning 21. “I’m in disbelief right now,” Roddick told reporters after his big win. “It’s so far-fetched for me. I came here as a fan so much when I was younger. It is an absolute privilege to have my name on the trophy.”
Although he remained in the Top 10 for nine years (give or take a few weeks), that was his first and last Grand Slam title. What happened? To put it simply: Roger Federer, the Swiss player who many call the greatest of all time. Although Roddick reached No. 1 before him, Federer overtook him in the rankings in 2004 and held onto the No. 1 spot for a record 302 weeks. Oh yeah, he also won an astounding 17 Grand Slam singles titles.
Roddick had his chances, reaching four other Slam finals—the US Open in 2006 and Wimbledon in 2004, ’05 and ’09—but standing in his way was Federer every time. “If it weren’t for Federer, Roddick would probably have two, maybe three Wimbledons, maybe another US Open or two,” says Bodo. “In fact, he himself will tell you that he was very lucky to come along before Roger. If he came along a year or two later, he may have just been one of those guys who never won a Grand Slam, made the Top 10 a bunch of years and that was it. It’s a mixed blessing for him, in a way—and he knows it.”
Although Roddick never won another major, he did have many other career highlights over the next nine years, including winning 32 singles titles and amassing more than $20 million in prize money. He held the record for fastest serve (155 mph) for seven years, and he gave the sport one of its greatest matches ever when he courageously went toe-to-toe with Federer in their marathon 2009 Wimbledon final. As for his Davis Cup career, he won 33 singles matches, placing him second to John McEnroe, and helped the Americans beat the Russians in 2007 to win the Cup back after a 12-year drought. “Andy was the ultimate professional,” says four-time Grand Slam winner and former No. 1 Jim Courier, who was the captain for the U.S. Davis Cup team in 2011. “He was always prepared, always fit, always ready to battle.”
And battle he did. He fought to stay in the world’s Top 10 until July 25, 2011, when long-standing injuries to his knees, ankles, shoulder and back, along with keeping up with Federer and Rafael Nadal, got to be too much for him. (Although he walked away with a winning record, 5-4, against current No. 1 Novak Djokovic.) In fact, when he announced his retirement, he mentioned his right shoulder injury several times. These days, “I don’t test it,” he says. “I honestly haven’t had a reason to go serve full-out since I retired. Even the exhibitions I play, I don’t do it. It became, with my shoulder, that I’d hit for two hours and then do treatment for four hours.”
Despite the lack of major titles, Bodo has no doubt that Roddick is deserving of a Hall of Fame honor. “His achievements are cumulative ones, not individual ones,” he says. “The number of years he remained in the Top 10, his Davis Cup record, his consistency over time and the number of years he did not get discouraged or mail it in—nobody worked harder than Andy did.”
A New Chapter
Now that he’s off the tennis circuit and no longer has to travel a minimum of 40 weeks per year, Roddick has turned his attention to his foundation, including the construction of its new learning center, complete with a 10,600-square-foot main facility, seven tennis courts and a full-sized outdoor basketball court, set to open this fall.
Roddick was inspired to start the foundation in 2000, a year after asking his idol Agassi what his biggest regret was. Agassi told his young colleague that he wished he had started his foundation earlier—so Roddick wasted no time in starting his. For 12 years, the foundation was what Roddick calls a “pass-through.” There would be a big event once a year, usually a gala featuring appearances and performances by Roddick’s big-name friends, such as Sir Elton John and John Legend, and then the profits would be distributed to local charities, including The Settlement Home for Children, A Glimmer of Hope and Austin Children’s Shelter. But now that he’s in the capital city permanently, Roddick is ready to take it to the next level.
While the learning center was inspired by Agassi’s charter school in Las Vegas, there are some big differences. “It’s not going to be a full-time school, it’s going to be more mentoring after school, in the same spirit of wanting to help in the way Andre has,” Roddick says. “It’s certainly not a carbon copy, but you can learn a lot from him and other people who have had success in this area.”
ARF’s motto is “Talent is Universal, Opportunity is Not.” That’s something Roddick says he has seen with his own eyes. “The thing is, the old saying ‘all men are created equal,’ that’s not always the case,” he says. “Some are born with opportunity and, for lack of a better term, they piss it away, and some have all the motivation, all the right intent, and they don’t get that opportunity. I think what we can do is raise awareness, raise funds, put the right people in place to make a difference and provide opportunities for someone who really craves it. And hopefully something really special will happen.”
Roddick actually set this transition into motion about a year and a half ago. In January 2012, he called his childhood friend Jeff C. Lau, who was working on Wall Street in New York after attending West Point and serving a tour of duty in Iraq, and asked him if he was interested in helping him transition the foundation. “I wasn’t getting up in the morning really jazzed about what I was doing,” says Lau, who had been working in mergers and acquisitions. “Andy said, ‘I have an idea of where I want the foundation to go, but I need someone I can trust and who can provide that intensity and not take any shortcuts.’ I said, ‘Let me think about it.’”
“Internally, I didn’t have to think about it too long—an 80-percent pay cut sounds wonderful. Let’s do it!” Lau laughs. “But here we are 14 months later, and I feel like we’ve got a lot of traction, and we’ve hired a lot of talented people. Billie Jean King even joined the board, and she’s emailing left and right. I think part of the battle is just getting really talented, capable people together, putting together a strategy and setting the standard really high.”
King says she and Roddick have always had a special bond. (In fact, Roddick just joined King’s World Team Tennis ownership group and is looking to start a team in Austin next year.) “One thing about Andy is he has integrity,” she says. “I knew from the first time I met him when he was 17 that he was something special. He has always tried to think beyond himself and help others. We saw that spirit when he played Davis Cup, and we are seeing that now with his leadership of his foundation.”
While the learning center is still in the planning stages, Roddick does know he wants to target kids of all ages. “It won’t be one program for all,” he says. “We’re looking at housing a number of programs under our facility. We’re going to start announcing in the next month or two some pop-ups and clinics to build some momentum and start that process of gaining trust and getting involved with different communities here on a temporary basis until we can actually get into our own shoes.”
Home, Sweet Home
His new, bigger role at the foundation isn’t the only change in Roddick’s life. While that’s running full speed ahead, his personal life has slowed down—and he’s enjoying every moment. “People ask what I’ve been up to, and I say everything and nothing,” he says. “The part that is a little different is that this was the first January in 15 years that I wasn’t in Australia [for the Australian Open]. I actually saw Austin in January for the first time ever. I was very familiar with Austin in July, for those three weeks before the summer season starts. So I’m kind of seeing different things at different times.”
He’s also adjusting to having a more flexible schedule. “For 12 years I could have told you six months in advance where I would be on a given week,” he says. “And at the foundation it’s a little bit more like, ‘We’ve got a request. We need you here to do this but it’s only 10 days out.’ So it’s not as structured, I guess, but still fun, still busy, which is nice. People make the mistake of saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re retired at 30.’ And I say, ‘I’m retired from tennis, not existence.’”
Although he has no aspirations to follow in other pro athletes’ footsteps and become a TV commentator (“I tell everyone I didn’t retire from playing tennis when I was No. 15 in the world to go sit in a box and talk about it,” he says.), he continues to offer his opinion on a weekly sports show on Fox Sports Radio with his buddy Bobby Bones. “I’m not doing it all the time because of everything else that I’m doing,” he says. “But Bobby still allows me to pop in.” Roddick also cryptically says that he’s had some “interesting” opportunities that may be revealed soon.
These days, he’s enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle at home with his wife and their two English bulldogs: Billie Jean, who they’ve had about five years, and Bob Costas, a new addition to the family. “Sometime like two years ago, Brooke was wanting to get another dog, because she grew up with way too many animals for one house,” he says. “I was like, ‘When I retire, we’ll get another one.’ Then three days after I retired, we were sitting around at lunch and she looked at me with this startled look and said, ‘I just remembered something—you said we could get another dog!’ So it was one of those things that there was no getting out of it.”
Decker says she and the pups are definitely happy to have him home more. “Less traveling has allowed him to relax more and focus on some of his favorite projects, whether they be the foundation or golfing,” she says. “I have to admit we’ve taken a greater liking to wine and Amy’s ice cream since he’s retired, and our dogs are happy to finally have their dad home!”
Besides the pitter-patter of little bulldog feet, what about the potential of having kids? “I don’t know that it’s going to be tomorrow,” he says. “If it happened tomorrow, we’d be thrilled and perfectly OK with it, but a lot of it’s up in the air as far as what she’s doing next [Decker recently filmed a TV pilot for CBS called Friends with Better Lives] and what I’m doing next professionally. So I think we’re going to wait and see what happens in the next six months and make grand life decisions after that.”
Whatever he ends up doing, whether it’s solely the foundation, a radio show or something else entirely, plenty of people will be rooting for him. “He’s far too smart, far too talented and far too restless to sit on the sidelines and not be involved,” says Courier. “He’ll have plenty of opportunities to make an impact wherever he wants to go from here.”
Last edited by Devotee; 06-04-2013 at 03:02 PM.