Thanks for the pics, Carly
Breaking speed barriers
U.S. Davis Cup hopes ride on fast-serving Roddick and his frat brothers
By PATRICK OBLEY
Staff Writer, Charlotte Observer
Sep. 24, 2004
CHARLESTON — The racket had committed its last atrocity, its final crime against humanity ... or in this case, Andy Roddick.
Roddick slammed the racket to the court, bending its head at a 90-degree angle. Two more whacks snapped its neck, ending this particularly nefarious episode of Davis Cup practice ... though most onlookers would have trouble discerning what made the practice so troublesome for the world’s No. 2 player.
“That’s the first racket I’ve smashed in my life,” Roddick said defensively when asked about the incident earlier this week.
Of course, it wasn’t the first racket Roddick had annihilated. Far from it.
Roddick’s untruth quickly unraveled in a fit of laughter when Davis Cup teammate Mardy Fish whispered something facetious in his ear.
“That’s the first racket you’ve busted today, you mean,” Fish said, outing Roddick to the gathered media.
Roddick pulled his cap tight over his eyes and grumbled.
“I’m so sick of Mardy,” he said.
With that, this exceedingly young U.S. Davis Cup squad devolved into a puddle of silliness. Roddick and Fish began slapping at each other. Doubles partners Bob and Mike Bryan began whispering conspiratorially.
And team captain Patrick McEnroe shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“My goal is to get us back in the running to win the Davis Cup every year,” McEnroe said. “I think we are in that position now. We have a group of guys who are real passionate about winning this ...”
Another wave of laughter washes over the group. Fish and Roddick are at it again.
Hey, if you’re Roddick, it’s hard to maintain your composure when some smarty-pants like Fish keeps whispering “you’re a success” or “you’re so sexy” in your ear while goosing you in the side during a supposedly serious meeting with the media. But carefree and loose is the way Roddick tries to play tennis and live his life. In fact, that’s how everyone in this band of rising stars likes to roll.
Roddick will open the best-of-five semifinal match against upstart Belarus today with a singles match against Vladimir Voltchkov. Fish will follow with his match against Belarus’s top player, Max Mirnyi. Depending on today’s results, the Bryan brothers could face Mirnyi and Voltchkov in Saturday’s doubles match.
On the surface, this showdown for the chance to meet France or Spain in the Davis Cup final is a mismatch. Of course, that’s what many golf experts said when the U.S. Ryder Cup team took on the Europeans last week.
As that Ryder Cup team proved when it crashed and burned, team chemistry can be everything. Fortunately for this Davis Cup crew, everyone gets along splendidly. Imagine a bunch of frat brothers who play tennis on the side.
“Our biggest thing is that our whole team is on the same page,” Roddick said. “We all have the common goal of trying to win this together some day. I think it helps that we do get along and that we are friendly off the court. It makes these weeks a lot easier, and it makes our decisions to compete as a team a lot easier as well.”
Before arriving in Charleston for this week’s showdown, Roddick invited the entire team to his house in Austin, Tex., following the U.S. Open. There, the group just hung out and, occasionally, picked up rackets and practiced.
“Actually, they just showed up,” Roddick said, slipping back into his standup routine. “I fed them occasionally... . No, I thought it would be a good idea to get together and have some fun.”
Although he is the youngest of the group, Roddick is the unquestioned leader. On his shoulders rests the United States’ best hope for a Davis Cup title in 10 years.
"I think it says a lot about his maturity. I think it says a lot about what Davis Cup means to him, what it means to be the leader of a team," McEnroe said.
Roddick and his fellow teammates have struggled through what can only be called an off year by their lofty individual standards.
Roddick lost the world’s No. 1 ranking to a surging Roger Federer, lost a match in Cincinnati to an aging Andre Agassi and bowed out of his U.S. Open title defense in an early round. Fish, despite winning a silver medal at the Olympics, has been maddingly inconsistent. The Bryan brothers have seen their doubles ranking dive from No. 1 to No. 7 thanks to a spate of injuries.
The season could still be salvaged for all with a Davis Cup title. With a win, all of the past year’s woes would be wiped away.
“There are a lot of things I wanted, but they are just not in the cards for me this year,” Roddick said. “But one thing still alive this year is this title. This is where I’m at. This is definitely the most important thing left for me... .”
Fish goosed Roddick for the last time. Roddick quickly sought out the nearest exit. With luck, someone thought ahead and hid his rackets.