Roddick, inspired by success
January 15, 2004
Andy Roddick says he can still improve, which will worry his opponents, reports Jake Niall.
Andy Roddick's major career ambition was to win the US Open. He did that in 2003 and, in the process, became the game's No. 1 ranked player.
At 21, he had already scaled the summit.
Yet, Roddick still regards himself as a work in progress, and as an improving youngster, rather than finished product.
"I don't know if there is a shot that I cannot improve," Roddick said yesterday.
"I think as much success as I had last year, I still feel I can become a better player, so that keeps me pretty optimistic."
Roddick is not one for self-congratulation and, far from sating his ambitions, the taste of 2003 has actually made him hungrier.
"If anything, the year that I had has just almost inspired me more," he said after routing Robby Ginepri 6-1, 6-3 in less than 40 minutes.
"It's when you get a taste, a good bite of a sandwich when you're hungry and you want to see what the rest of it is like as well."
One US Open swallow will not make Roddick's summer. "People have been asking me what's left? Well, the way I figure it, there are a lot of tournaments I haven't won and there's a lot of things I haven't done in this game so I have plenty to think about to keep me busy. Not easily satisfied, so I definitely want to write some more chapters instead of settling down and accepting what last year was."
Roddick's desire for self-improvement, a very American trait, stems from the premise that he is far from the perfect player.
Yesterday, for instance, Roddick volunteered that he was not as "naturally talented" as Roger Federer, the Swiss rival whom he pipped for the top ranking last year. Roddick also suggested that, as the teenage great white hype of American tennis, he had received "a lot more attention than I deserved earlier on."
"I think as much success as I had last year, I still feel I can become a better player." --- ANDY RODDICK
To be an American No. 1 is a quite different experience from being a top-ranked Australian.
In this country, the player will feel the weight of the nation; in the US, he carries the burden of American tennis - he represents the aspirations of the sport, which has to compete with Tiger Woods, the National Football League and other professional team sports for publicity.
"There was such a long period of time before, maybe, they saw someone who they dubbed had the potential to succeed Andre or Pete," he said.
"Or even just new excitement in the game there, but that's something that was there from the beginning with me, as soon as I turned pro. It's not as though all of a sudden I got thrusted into it."
He accepts his ambassador's role and, unlike the reluctant Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, has even embraced the Davis Cup. He will play in the Olympics this year, regarding the Games as "right up there with the four major ones. Not a lot of people in the world have gold medals."
Even fewer own grand slam singles titles and until 2003, Roddick had not been beyond the quarters of a slam. For the hype and hope back home, he had not delivered much when it counted. The breakthrough came a year ago at the Australian Open, when an exhausted Roddick outlasted Younes El Aynaoui 21-19 in the longest fifth set in grand slam history to reach his first slam semi-final.
The match became instant folklore and, no sooner had it finished, was hailed as a coming-of-age story.
Roddick has fond memories of the match and of Melbourne.
"That match was a huge part of my year last year," he said. "So, of course, it pops into my mind sometimes."
He was unsure, though, whether his US Open conquest was a direct flow-on from the Melbourne marathon. "Some people are asking, 'Did you win the US Open because you won that match?'
"...I don't know how much I believe that, but it definitely was a learning curve. If I'm in a fifth set now, I think: 'I've been there before, I can do this', and in that respect it has helped a lot."
Whether a new Roddick was born at Rod Laver Arena in the early hours of January 21, 2003, is beside the point, which is that Andy Roddick is the not the kid who came to Melbourne 12 months ago.
This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/20...877899141.html