I was cleaning out my closet and look what I found!!!!!
The Education of Andy Roddick by Andy Roddick with Peter Bodo
The following is from the December 2001 / January 2002 issue of TENNIS
Editorís Note: Last winter, we had the idea to ask a rookie professional to record his experiences adjusting to life on the ATP tour. Several names were batted around before we decided to pursue Andy Roddick, then 18, whoíd risen from obscurity to the world No. 1 junior ranking in 2000. When he agreed to keep a diary for us, we expected that it would focus on the difficult transition from the amateur ranks to the pro circuit, the adjustment to constant travel, and the lonely, uphill battle for the ranking points that would qualify him for main-draw events. Never in our wildest imaginations (nor, we dare say, in Andyís) did we envision the journal youíre about to read, chronicling the fast-track success of a star in the making.
January 1, 2001, Boca Raton, Fla. ATP ENTRY SYSTEM RANKING: 156
Hello. My nameís Andy Roddick, Iím 18 years old, and Iím a tennis player. At least, Iím about to find out if Iím a tennis player.
If you told me a few years ago that Iíd be playing the tour at 18, Iíd have said you were nuts. I probably was a better student than player back then. I had a 3.6 GPA at Boca Prep, and my ambition was to get a free ride to college.
But something big happened to me right before I turned 17. During a rain delay at the 18-and-under national tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich., my mother, Blanche, and a former pro from France, Tarik Benhabiles, got stuck under the same canopy. They started talking. Tarik said some nice things about my game, gave Mom his rťsumť, and said heíd love to coach me.
My dad, Jerry, agreed it was a great opportunity. Tarik had been ranked as high as No. 22 in the 1980s. Heís a little (5-foot-9) guy who had a consistent game and a lot of guts. And he lived just two miles from our house. So we made a commitment to Tarik and stepped up my training.
The next year, my game really came together. I won the Australian Open and U.S. Open boysí titles. That led to a big decision: College could wait. I wanted to give the tour a try. So Iím all fired up, but a little nervous, too. The pros donít care that Iím the No. 1 junior. And my ranking isnít exactly going to blow anyone away.
JANUARY 3, RANKING: 156
The doorbell rang this afternoon, and when Mom answered it, Andre Agassi walked into our living room. This is, like, a pretty big deal considering I grew up watching the guy play on TV. Andre called the day before, inviting me to be his practice partner for the next six days. Heís staying with his girlfriend, Steffi Graf, at her house in Boca, then leaving for the Australian Open-while Iím off to play a $50,000 Challenger in Hawaii.
Mom was impressed that Andre was right on time for our scrimmage (thatís a mother thing, right?). He chatted about stuff with my parents in our family room-weíve got a pool table, foosball, and shuffleboard court-and then we headed to the hard court in our backyard and hit for two hours.
Itís incredible how focused Andre is and the pace at which he plays, even in practice. His hands are fast. His feet are fast. The points go fast. It makes me realize I have my work cut out for me over the next 12 months. But Andre encourages me, and coming from him, that means a lot. Just being around a great player, the attitude has to rub off-at least I hope so.
JANUARY 29, WAIKOLOA, HAWAII, RANKING: 128
They say life in the minor leagues of tennis is tough, but this is like the best place Iíve ever been in my life. The Hilton Waikoloa Village, where we all stayed for this Challenger, is right by the ocean. The organizers spoiled us with things like a sunset cruise and a player party, and the outdoor hard courts are great. I guess horror stories are the domain of the guys who play one level below us, on the Satellite circuit.
Itís been a great week: I beat a Top 100 guy (Paul Goldstein), won the tournament, and jumped 28 spots on the ATP computer. At this rate, Iíll be No. 1 by summer.
Yeah, Andy, keep dreaming.
But the best part came when Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup captain, called and asked me to be on the team-not as a practice partner, like I was before, but as a team member. After I hung up the phone, I ran to Tarikís room, and I was jumping up and down. Iím going to wear that team jacket, the one with USA written on the back.
FEBRUARY 11, BASEL, SWITZERLAND, RANKING: 130
I just won my first ever Davis Cup match, beating George Bastl 6-3, 6-4. Too bad it was a dead rubber (Switzerland clinched the tie in the fourth match, when Roger Federer beat Jan-Michael Gambill). It was tough sitting on the bench, watching our guys go down. But the Davis Cup experience was awesome anyway.
Basel is a medieval town that still has streetcars. You can hear them going "ding, ding, ding," like in that old Rice-a-Roni commercial. The crowd in the 9,000-seat St. Jakobshalle was great, all dressed in Swiss red and white, ringing cow bells and chanting "Hopp Swiss," which means "Go Swiss."
The best part was hanging out with the guys. Iíve become good buddies with Jan-Michael --heís open and friendly, and heís helping me learn the ropes. Now weíre talking about maybe playing some doubles together. And Todd Martin was pretty amazing -- the elder-statesman, team-leader guy. The most intense moment of the trip was on Friday, after Todd injured his back and had to default against Federer. We bumped into each other in the hotel and Todd, very softly, said, "I might be OK, in a day or two, but youíd better be ready, Andy. Put yourself in the mindset to play."
I got this tingly feeling all over. That night, I couldnít sleep, my heart was just pounding. It wasnít anxiety, it was excitement. But mentally, I got myself ready for the real deal--playing for my country.
MARCH 7, BOCA RATON, RANKING: 120
Iím lying on the bed in my room, where I have two huge bulletin boards-one filled with pictures of all my friends and another with all my player ID badges. Iím wondering where to pin up this article I cut out from the Boca Raton News. The piece is about the tournament in nearby Delray Beach, and how I lost my first-round match to Jiri Vanek, 6-4 in the third. Itís like the LOCAL BOY MAKES BAD story, at least to my mind. Iím putting it on my wall as a reminder--and for motivation.
Iím really bumming, but Tarik and I decided that the best cure for my Delray blues is plain old-fashioned hard work. With less than two weeks to go before the Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Iím starting two-a-day workouts, determined to be in the best physical shape and frame of mind possible for my favorite tournament.
Itís nice to be home, where I can see my friends, have my dadís homemade tacos and momís barbecued teriyaki chicken and "rock potatoes" (itís kind of like scalloped potatoes, but with lots of other junk like chicken noodle soup in it). I like sleeping in my own bed and using my own bathroom--which, by the way, is famous among my family and friends. I was born in Nebraska, and Iím rabid about the University of Nebraska football team. My entire bathroom is papered in red and white, with images of that little Cornhusker dude. For some reason, everybody gets a big kick out of that.
MARCH 26, MIAMI, RANKING: 119
I beat Pete Sampras today. Make that yesterday, because itís 3 A.M., Iím in my bed at the Hotel Inter-Continental, and I canít get to sleep. I beat Pete Sampras yesterday. OK, I wonít write it anymore, Iíll just believe it. But itís tough. Because this is huge. This is maybe change-my-life huge.
I came to Miami, which is about 45 minutes down I-95 from home, in the best shape of my life and mentally hungry. I decided to stay at the Inter-Continental so I wouldnít be distracted. In the second round, I beat Marcelo Rios, who said afterward I was "nothing special," just a guy with a big serve. And then I had to play Pete.
Before the match, people tried to pump me up by saying that Pete was just another player, that he was getting older. But I wasnít thinking about any of that stuff. I was trying to keep it just another match. Then, during the warm-up, I kind of sneaked a look over the net and thought, "Ooooohhh-kaaaayyyy, Iím playing Pete Sampras, in front of 15,000 people, and itís on national television."
But Iím the kind of player who gets juiced from that kind of situation, and soon after the match started, I knew it was a good day for me. My serve was working. I had light legs and feet. My groundies were dialed in. Mentally, I was zoomed. When I got up on him, I just kept firing. That was key.
The only shaky moment I had was when I got up a break in the second. I couldnít help but think, "Like, I actually might beat Pete Sampras." But I fought hard to shut it out. I had a lot of friends and family there, but the only person I made eye contact with was Tarik. And I could feel he was there for me, giving me energy and confidence. I won 7-6(2), 6-3.
I was determined to chill that night. I was in my room by 10:30 P.M. But I was wired, so I fired up my laptop. I have one e-mail address that maybe 500 people have, and another that maybe 35 people -- just my closest friends, only about half of whom are tennis people -- know. I had like 60 emails, and my cell phone kept ringing so much I finally shut if off.
There was no way I was going to come down from this high anytime soon, so I called around to see who wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafť for dinner. I reached this girl Iím dating (who shall remain nameless), Tarik and his wife, Clelia, my buddy Andy McDonald, whoís a student at the University of Miami, and Megan Bradley, another friend, whoís a promising junior player. We went out to eat, then some of us walked around Bayside Marketplace, the mall downtown.
When I got back a little while ago, I checked my e-mail again and read a message from Mom. It was simple and straightforward. She just said how proud she and Dad were of me and that they loved me. That meant a lot. I remember how Mom used to take my brother John and me to tournaments -- heís 25 now, and an assistant tennis coach at Georgia -- and the sacrifices she made. And she got to know her tennis. Sheís going to love it that I admit right here she knows a bit about the game -- in addition to everything else.
MAY 7, HOUSTON. RANKING: 46
Things are moving fast, real fast. In the past two weeks Iíve won my first two ATP events, one in Atlanta and now one in Houston. The funny thing is -- and I hope this doesnít sound like Iím bragging -- it hasnít been as hard or as challenging as I expected. Iíve just totally been in the zone -- I held serve 94 out of 99 times. Iíve been very solid mentally, and when Iíve had to go for shots, theyíve been there.
Pat McEnroe promised that if I got to the final in Atlanta, heíd fly in for the match. He laid it on the table for me. I held up my end, and Pat kept his promise, so I trust him. Heís not just my Davis Cup captain; heís a friend.
The hype started to get serious in Atlanta, and I feel I handled it pretty well. I figure if the media and I treat each other with respect, everything will be fine. Still, itís kind of weird when people start digging up and throwing out these facts, like I was the first teenage American man since Sampras to win a title. I donít think of myself as a teen, or anything else. Iím just a tennis player.
The thing Iíll remember most about Houston is the fans. In the semis, I got on court a 5 P.M. to play Jerome Golmard of France. I was leading by a set and 5-4 when the rain came. During the long delay, I slept a little bit, I nibbled on this and that, I watched parts of Happy Gilmore. Finally, at 11 P.M., we got back out to finish and there were still about 250 fans, all psyched to see the end of the match.
I was feeling sluggish, not into playing, until I saw those fans. Then all of a sudden I really wanted to win. They got me pumped. I won 7-6(3), 7-6 (2), and as I signed autographs, the fans were thanking me. I thought it should be the other way around. Something clicked in my head. Maybe I could thank them -- in a different way. So I got the umpireís mike and announced that anyone who didnít have a ticket for the final the next day should go and pick one up at the box office on the way out, that it was on me.
I wonít see a credit-card statement for a while, but I know some people took me up on the offer, because after I beat Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea in the final, fans came up to me and said, "Hey, Andy, thanks for the ticket."
JUNE 2, PARIS. RANKING: 48
Itís a beautiful morning in Paris. Outside the window of my corner room at the Warwick Hotel, I can check out all the action on the Champs-Elysees. And now that Iím out of the French Open after three rounds, itís the only action around.
I lost to LLeyton Hewitt, the same guy who beat me at the Ericsson. That Lleyton, heís tough. He returns every serve he gets his racquet on, and heís so fast. You canít explain to a non-player how dangerous that makes him. But I still feel it was a great tournament. One of my goals for the year was to avoid having to qualify for Roland Garros; it would have been brutal to have to grind out three matches on slow red clay, against guys who grew up on the stuff, just to get in.
Things always seem easier if I have a clear goal, and not just with tennis. When I was in ninth grade my mom said, "Andy, one time, just one time, Iíd like you to buckle down and work and get straight Aís for me." I made that my goal, and I did it -- for the first and only time -- the next semester.
Iíd never won a Grand Slam match before this event, and here I won two, a straight-setter over Scott Draper and an amazing five-setter against Michael Chang on Court Philippe Chatrier, the main stadium, where I was cramping through the final set. It was kind of weird: One of the matches that got me interested in tennis was the one here between Michael and Ivan Lendl -- you know, where Michael started cramping so badly, he served underhand. But he hung in and won and went on to become the youngest player to win the French Open.
That was 1989. I was six. When we shook hands at the net, Michael gave me advice about hydrating and taking minerals and how to prepare for my next match and prevent more cramping. It was a classy thing to do in a pretty bitter moment for him. I followed Michaelís advice, and I felt great playing Lleyton. I was giving him a much better battle than I had in Miami -- at least until I strained my left hamstring and had to quit with the match at a set apiece and 2-all in the third.
After the match, I had my first negative encounter with the press. I had an MRI to see if Iíd torn or seriously injured anything, and when it came up negative, I sent word to the pressroom. But some of the reporters kept pushing to see the actual MRI, or the doctorís report, and I refused to release it. I figured my word should be good enough. But they made it into this huge ordeal, like I was trying to hide something with Wimbledon just around the corner. A few papers even reported that I was out at a place called the Buddha Club last night, dancing until all hours. And thatís total B.S.
I wasnít surprised by my performance on clay. What surprised me was being treated like a sensation in Paris. Maybe itís because Tarik is French. Maybe itís because Iím expressive on court, and the French like that -- they loved Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe, too. Whatever the reason, itís great to be liked, but I donít try to be someone a crowd relates to. If being calm and showing no emotion worked better for me, thatís how Iíd be. I just like to express my emotions.
JUNE 30, LONDON, RANKING: 33
After seven weeks in Europe, Iím dying for a little Boca beach action, a little kick-back time. Not that I wouldíve minded staying in London to play tennis another week, but Goran Ivanisevic ixnayed that concept.
Doug Spreen, an ATP trainer, gave me some advice before I set foot for the first time on Wimbledonís Centre Court to play Thomas Johansson of Sweden in the second round. "When you go out," he said, "look around, soak it all in, and then blank it out. Once the match begins, you donít want to find yourself looking around or wondering about the place."
The advice really helped me. I beat Johansson, whoíd won two grass-court warm-ups and was seeded No. 11, in four sets. Being on Centre Court was amazing. Itís like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. You dream of playing in a place like that. Your attitude is like, "OK, sucker, youíre going down."
Unfortunately, that attitude was less successful against Goran, one of the all-time best players on grass, in the next round. I played a good match and still got my clock cleaned. Goran had 41 aces and got in 72 percent of his first serves. It was strange. There was no flow to the match. I couldnít get into a rhythm. There were whole games when I touched -- not returned, but touched -- the ball maybe twice. You canít stop a guy when heís playing like that. I did well to get a service break in the third set and give him a little run in the fourth. And that only happened because I decided to start guessing where his serve was going. It was the first time in my life I ever had to do that.
Otherwise, my Wimbledon experience was sweet. Again, there was a lot of buzz about me (though the British are more reserved than the French), but Iím learning to deal with the attention. I donít want to get an attitude about it one way or another. I just want to go with the flow.
Iím looking forward to seeing my friends back home, including Christina Jones, my best friend since 10th. grade.
We both played juniors and went to Boca Prep. We even went to the prom together, but just as friends. Weíve never dated, though we do talk on almost a daily basis. Christina knows me better than anyone, and I think sheís great -- Iíve never thought any further ahead than that.
Iím starting to see how playing tennis around the globe doesnít exactly help the boyfriend-girlfriend thing. At 18, Iím not about to get married, but it would be great to have some one who I could just shoot the crap with after matches. I did date a couple of girls this year -- no names, please -- but this way of life makes it tough.
Oh well, no use worrying about it. Iím looking forward to being home for the Fourth of July -- fireworks on the beach, barbecues and parties, generally hanging out. Boca, here I come.
JULY 25, LOS ANGELES, RANKING: 34
Other than playing a little World TeamTennis for the St. Louis Aces, I took it easy for a few weeks after Wimbledon, so I had no idea how I was playing when I got here. Marat Safin showed me, tooling me in straight sets in the first round.
I had a bit of an argument with Tarik today. I can be a pain in the butt when Iím having a bad day in practice. So when I wasnít hitting my backhand well and started getting teed off, Tarik thought I was getting angry at him. We hadnít been together for a while, and things werenít clicking. He got mad, and we had some words. But later we talked it over and now everythingís fine.
I love Tarik. He opens me up to different ways of looking at the game. Weíre a great fit, because he was a scrappy player, and I pretty much hit everything hard. Combining his mental strength with my style, thatís a tough combination. Beyond that, he and I communicate well and trust each other. Before a match, he always knows the right thing to say. Heíll say it, and Iím like, "Yeah, thatís just what I need to hear." And when I look at him during a match, I can tell heís not just out there like some nine-to-five guy. He cares-deeply.
Iíve got only one complaint. Sometimes we still share a room on the road, and Tarik, well, he snores.
AUGUST 2, MONTREAL, RANKING: 35
Today, I beat the best player on the planet, French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten. Like, how psyched am I? For some reason, I felt really relaxed before the match. That may have been because the day before, I was down match point to Carlos Moya and ended up winning. When you survive a match like that, you think, "Hey, I shouldnít even be here. I may as well go for it, fire away, and whatever happens, happens."
What happened was that I served well and got a little luck going my way as we split sets. But I did play a really good third set and won at 6-2 , so I definitely deserved the win.
Even so, itís clear why Gugaís NO. 1 in the world (at least according to the entry system); His first serve is one of the most underrated in the world -- he hits his spots at 117 m.p.h. a high percentage of the time -- he moves you around at will off the ground, and he has every shot in the book. He also hits a very heavy ball -- it feels like a shot put on your strings. With other players, you say, "OK, Iím going to look for this or that shot, step in, and really rip it." But Gustavo has no weak shot. Thatís why heís the best.
AUGUST 19, WASHINGTON, D.C., RANKING: 30
I felt at home going into this tournament, because itís where I had my first big breakout: Last year I got to the quarters as a wild card, which was a huge confidence-builder.
Then I saw that my first-round opponent was Wayne Arthurs. Itís always a shootout with Wayne, a big-serving Aussie. But once I survived that hairy match in a third-set tiebreaker, I got on a roll and won the whole thing.
I met Mr. Rios along the way, and I remembered how he gave me no props after I beat him in Miami. So in our quarterfinal, I tried to show him Iím more than a serve, that I can play a bit, too. I moved him around the baseline, traded groundies. It was satisfying to beat him 3 and 4. I also played Chang again. He was having one of his best weeks of the year, and the heat and humidity made the conditions for our semifinal slow. But I came through.
I always get asked by the press if I feel bad beating guys like Michael or Todd Martin, who were my role models, and the simple answer is: no. They know itís all business, and I think they respect me more for taking no pity, because they were once in my shoes. And acted exactly as I do.
After I beat Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-3 in the final, I realized something: I seem to play better as I get deeper into an event, get more matches under my belt. Iím not that bothered by changing surfaces, or going from indoors to outdoors or vice versa. Itís all about momentum. Iím a streaky player. And I'd like nothing better than going streaky in about a weekís time at the U.S. Open.
SEPTEMBER 7, NEW YOUR CITY. RANKING: 18
I wish it wasnít over. I wish I was still playing. I wish there was another Grand Slam event this year, and then another. But Iím done at the majors. I lost my quarterfinal to Lleyton Hewitt last night, 6-4 in the fifth. I kind of went ballistic over a bad call -- an overrule against me, in what turned out to be match game -- and that was it. Iíll rise to a career-high No. 15 on Monday, but itís not much consolation right now.
Lleytonís tagged me three times this year. Heís such a fighter, and he handles my power better than anyone else around. Everybody keeps saying we could have a great rivalry, but how can you have a rivalry if one guy wins all the time? All I can say is, "To be continued . . . "
Overall, the U.S.Open was a pretty intense two weeks. But it was a lot of fun, too. I stayed at the W Hotel at 49th. and Lexington Avenue, not because itís one of Manhattanís hip hotels (the people from the MTV Video Music Awards show stayed there, too), but because when I stayed at a W Hotel in Atlanta, I found out they have the best beds in the world. Iím serious -- the beds are unreal good.
The hype in New York was overwhelming -- I got sick of hearing my own name. At last yearís tournament, I got in the habit of walking out to the food court to get pizza. This year, I couldnít do that because I drew a crowd the second I stepped outside the player lounge.
But the fans were great. They got together behind the gate outside the locker room and sang "Happy Birthday" last week when I turned 19. I got a gift bag from a fan with a Nebraska cap and a totally awesome CD with hip-hop and R & B tunes on it that sheíd burned herself. I listened to that disk through the while tournament.
I played four of my five matches at night, and the atmosphere in Arthur Ashe stadium was electric -- like I was in a Monday Night Football game. But by the time I got back, unwound, and went to sleep, it was three in the morning. That meant I didnít get to experience a lot of New York. To tell you the truth, the Open kind of went by in a blur.
But then, my entire yearís been like that. So eventful. So full of great surprises, unexpected successes, awesome experiences. It hasnít all sunk in yet, and it probably wonít for a while. But Iím aware of how much Iíve improved and how much Iíve learned.
For one thing, Iíve learned that being a pro has a lot to do with preparation -- stretching, making sure your racquets get strung right, getting massages, eating properly. Before my French Open match with Chang, I ate a big, fat, greasy hamburger patty. By the time the U.S. Open rolled around, I was eating pasta (for carbo-loading) and lugging around a water bottle all night to make sure I was hydrated.
Iíve learned that the level of competition is so high, you have to be ready to play every day -- because the other guy is. Iíve learned that you canít worry about who youíre playing, or where, or when. The key is to show up and try to play your game, stick with what you do well.
I know Iíve got work to do. Iím still learning and growing, and itís going to take awhile. For one thing, I have to control my temper better. I canít have it impact my game negatively, as it has a couple times. And Iím going to have to deal with being in the spotlight, which was the last thing I expected at this stage in my career. Oh yeah, I learned something else in 2001: Just because youíre a pro doesnít mean you have to be jaded by it. For me, one of the biggest highlights of the U.S. Open was watching that great quarterfinal between Pete and Andre. If Iím walking around the locker room before I have to play one of those guys, Iím like a player. Itís no big deal. But that night, watching them, I felt like I was 12 years old. I was just a huge, star-struck fan. And no matter what lies ahead, I never want to lose that feeling.