....conference call Monday to promote next month's SAP Open in San Jose...
SAP OPEN MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 8, 2007
GREG SHARKO: Good afternoon to everyone. Thanks for joining in for today's conference call where two-time SAP Open champion Andy Roddick joins us from Melbourne, Australia, where he's preparing for the Australian Open.
Last season Andy finished No. 6 in the ATP rankings, his fifth consecutive top-10 campaign. He won his 21st career title at the ATP Masters Series in Cincinnati and reached his fourth career Grand Slam final at the US Open.
Before we open up the lines for questions, I want to introduce the tournament director, Bill Rapp, who will make a few comments.
BILL RAPP: Thanks, Shark. Andy, thanks for joining us today. I just wanted to mention to the folks on the call, I was down a couple weeks ago at your event in Austin. Can you give us a quick recap. I know it's your charity to help children today for tomorrow. I guess you raised a few hundred thousand dollars. How did it turn out?
ANDY RODDICK: It was great. Between that and the Florida event, I think we raised about $1.8 million. It was successful.
BILL RAPP: Great. Also Andy, I was impressed at the beginning of the night, you very clearly thanked Andre Agassi for his inspiration. Can you tell that story about being on the plane with him, how that transpired in your younger days.
ANDY RODDICK: I was lucky enough to hitch a ride with Andre when I was about 17 on his plane. I was just asking him questions, probably being really annoying. I asked him what his biggest regret was. He said that he didn't start his foundation early enough. It really surprised me, made an impression on me. I started mine the next year.
BILL RAPP: We're thrilled to be involved with your charity, Andy. Also for those of you on the call that don't know, SAP, who is the title sponsor of our event, we're thrilled to have Andy recently announced as a three-year world ambassador for SAP. Also we'll be playing the SAP Open in San Jose from now through at least 2009. Glad to have you back, Andy.
ANDY RODDICK: Thank you. Good to be back.
GREG SHARKO: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Your thoughts on this year's field with Safin joining in the mix here.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, it seems like it's probably the toughest field that I've played in since I've been playing in tournament. Definitely the deepest as far as top-tier players go.
I'm excited to get in the mix.
Q. I heard a story that Jimmy Connors is doing more traveling with you. How much do you think that will help you out?
ANDY RODDICK: It's great. I mean, I still don't think he's going to be out on the road every single week. It's just great kind of having a mentor and advisor who has been there before, who kind of gets what you're going through a little bit.
Q. Is Jimmy going to be in San Jose, do you know?
ANDY RODDICK: I'm not sure yet.
Q. What did you learn from the two matches you had against Federer, in the Open and Masters Cup? What can you carry over to this year?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, to be honest, I gained a little bit of confidence in that match-up. I've said recently probably for the first time in two or three years after those matches I felt like the gap was maybe going my way for once. So that's exciting. There's still a long way to go, but I'm a lot more optimistic about it than I was maybe the last couple years.
Q. Are you hoping to get an early shot at him this year in Australia?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, yeah, I mean, I've made it clear that I'd love to play him as many times as possible. Also that means that I'm deep in a tournament. That's a good thing, as well (laughter).
Q. Do you plan on playing the Davis Cup before San Jose?
ANDY RODDICK: Yes.
Q. Can you talk about how Jimmy has helped you the most?
ANDY RODDICK: You know, I get that question, and it's tough to come up with kind of a vague answer. I'm not sure. It's got to be a combination. I don't know if it can choose one. It's got to be the energy, his knowledge of the game, the intensity that he brings to the practice courts every day. A lot of it just has to do with the excitement that he generates, as well.
Q. Can you talk about some of the keys for you this year in order for you to be able to reach your goals, what you were thinking in the off-season, what you want to do the next couple months?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it's just building on the momentum of the last five months of last year. I felt like I was on the right track as far as the way I was playing. I kind of adopted a new style on the fly. Now I've had an off-season to work on that, I think it can get better. Just kind of need to keep going along that same route.
Q. Can you talk about the style, what you consider it to be? You talked a lot about being more aggressive. You're also playing better defensive tennis, too.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, I'm trying not to play that much defense, so therefore I don't look at bad by playing defense on every point (laughter).
You know, I think it is just trying to get forward a little bit more, putting myself in good positions on the court.
Q. The evolution of your game, you talked about it, but the comparison between today and three years ago, how comfortable you are up at the net?
ANDY RODDICK: I feel good up there right now. I guess that happens with repetition, forcing yourself to do it, whereas times before that I'd have good and bad days. I think it's just a little bit more consistent now.
Q. It's been a little while since you played a regular-circuit tournament, probably Shanghai. Do you have the feeling of being refreshed at this point? Is there now an eagerness to go out on the circuit again?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, I definitely think there's always an eagerness at the beginning of the year, maybe this year even more than most just because I feel like I had a little bit of momentum on my side when I stopped. I felt like I was playing pretty good tennis. I'm really looking forward to trying to continue to improve this year. I definitely am eager to get out there.
Q. In terms of closing the gap with Roger, can you be more specific? Was it being more aggressive, returns? Some of the detail there?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, most obvious thing is just score line. Play him tough at the Open for three sets, have an opportunity to go up a break in the third, and obviously have match points in Shanghai. At least I'm providing myself with opportunities against him the last couple of matches.
Q. Obviously a lot of great prizes out there. If you had to choose one that would make your year, which one?
ANDY RODDICK: Are you talking about tournaments?
Q. Tournaments and Davis.
ANDY RODDICK: I'd probably say, with apologies to Bill Rapp (laughter).
BILL RAPP: We're going to have to end this call (laughter).
ANDY RODDICK: Probably, you know, Davis Cup and Wimbledon are up top for me. You know, I'm not picky. I'll take what I can get.
BILL RAPP: For the record, Andy has referred to our event as the Fifth Slam (laughter).
Q. You've been a big supporter of instant replay, right?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah.
Q. Quickly, can you give me a comment on that?
ANDY RODDICK: What do you want to know about it?
Q. Why do you like it?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I mean, I think it's good for a lot of reasons. I feel like it takes a certain element of human error out of the equation. I also think it's good for fans. I think it adds another dimension. There's a certain kind of buzz in the air when you challenge, it goes up on the scoreboard. Just adds another dimension to watching it on TV, as well.
I think it's good in a lot of ways.
Q. When you think about instant replay, it's one of a lot of innovations taking playing in the game the last couple of years. On-court coaching, scoring changes in doubles, round robin, Sunday starts. What are your thoughts on all the tweaks going on? Is that an acknowledgment that the status quo wasn't really working in tennis?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know that it wasn't working. There have been changes in pretty much every sport. We'd been doing the same thing for a hundred years. Regardless of if we like each idea or not, I think it's worth exploring. You're writing about it, people are reading about it. That just generates interest.
It's worth the experimentation process. You can kind of weed out the bad ideas.
Q. Roger has had an amazing three years, perhaps the best in tennis history. He's about to pass your mentor on the consecutive weeks at No. 1. Can you put into perspective what he's done in the game the last three years?
ANDY RODDICK: It's been impressive, I can tell you firsthand. I can reel off a bunch of numbers right now. I think it's just the way he's done it. He's an impressive player.
Q. How would you describe Jimmy as a coach? Is he a hands-on type of guy?
ANDY RODDICK: It's weird because he's probably not as loud and boisterous as you all might think. He's pretty demure when he comes to me to talk about what he has to talk about. Very straightforward, very involved with the whole process.
Q. Is he a guy who shares a lot of his stories, experiences?
ANDY RODDICK: No. I don't remember one time where he's been talking about his matches, what he did. That's probably the part that surprised me the most. I ask him a lot of questions about it. He's almost a little bit reserved in talking about the way he played. He kind of focuses on what I have to do.
Q. Is that good or disappointing?
ANDY RODDICK: It's not like he doesn't give me answers. I'm asking him about certain matches that I remember. He's more concerned about what I'm going to do to beat the next guy I play.
From a fan's perspective, it's a little bit funny for me. From a coach/player standpoint, it's probably a really good thing.
Q. Having played both Federer and Sampras, who do you think is better and why?
ANDY RODDICK: That's tough. I personally probably have more trouble with Roger. It's tough to talk about a head-to-head match-up because obviously Sampras comes forward all the time. That style might have been effective against Roger. It's tough. You hear everything about it. It's almost tough to compare guys from different eras. That's kind of like a lost argument.
Q. If they met on a hard court, could you pick one over the other?
ANDY RODDICK: Like I said, it's kind of useless to talk about stuff like that. It's not going to happen. It's almost fantasy land.
Q. Is it fair to say that Nadal is struggling now? Or given his age, is he making adjustments?
ANDY RODDICK: (Laughter).
Q. I knew you were going to laugh. He hasn't won a title since the French Open.
ANDY RODDICK: It's fair to say that you're struggling right now (laughter).
Q. Seriously, though, hasn't won a title since the French. On hard courts, he hasn't been producing the same results.
ANDY RODDICK: You don't want to hear what I have to say.
No, dude, he's still winning matches. He's not losing first rounds. The guy made the semis of Masters on a hard court, on a fast indoor court. I'm sure he thinks he could play a little bit better. To say the guy's struggling, I mean, look at his age, with everything that he's accomplished. I mean, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Q. Do you think there's an adjustment period now for him or not?
ANDY RODDICK: In what way?
Q. Teenage guy, knowing he has to make some adjustments to his game, moving on. He hasn't quite put up the same results. Maybe he's trying to do a couple things technically, mentally.
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. The first six months of the year are on clay. Obviously that's a bit more of his comfort zone. You know, it's anything. He's got the game. He's going to have results. Obviously clay is going to be his best surface. That's not a secret. That's kind of the hand that he's been dealt.
I think he'll be just fine. I don't think he needs advice from me.
Q. The Davis Cup tie coming up. Tough results away on clay. Facing Berdych, but I understand Stepanek is not playing. Can you talk about the tie against the Czech Republic?
ANDY RODDICK: We've had some tough matchups on clay. Obviously I don't know if the Czech Republic has the depth that Russia has. The loss to France, they're a pretty deep team.
You know, if it's about getting to three first, I like our chances.
Q. It would be pretty important for us to win one away on clay, wouldn't you say?
ANDY RODDICK: You would think so, yeah.
Q. In terms of tonight's game with Florida and Ohio State, give me a quick score.
ANDY RODDICK: 31-24 Ohio State.
Q. Obviously you had some closer matches with Roger in the second half of 2006, put yourself in position to win. You said the gap is closing for you. Do you think we'll see him more challenged across the board in 2007?
ANDY RODDICK: He's going to have to be, otherwise he's going to go the whole year without losing one match (laughter).
I mean, I hope so. Personally I know I'm going to play a lot better than I did at the beginning of last year. There's one challenge. We'll see. Obviously he's the bar right now. We're all trying to get there.
BILL RAPP: Andy, can you tell us the things that you enjoy about playing here in the Bay Area, specifically San Jose?
ANDY RODDICK: I had some success there in the past. I enjoy playing in front of the fans there. It's nice to go back to a place you're familiar with. I played there I think since, what, 2001 now. I'm excited to get back there.
BILL RAPP: Looking forward to having you.
GREG SHARKO: Thanks, everyone. Andy, good luck in Melbourne.