No. 1 Is a Role Roddick Is Playing for Keeps [Archive] -

No. 1 Is a Role Roddick Is Playing for Keeps

11-14-2003, 04:51 AM
Another really nice article from NY Times.

No. 1 Is a Role Roddick Is Playing for Keeps

Published: November 14, 2003


ANDY RODDICK was locked in a stick-'em-up pose — arms in the air, feet apart, with "don't move" on his mind — while the wardrobe folks at "Saturday Night Live" put their guest host through a caffeinated version of Mr. Potato Head between every sketch last week.

Costume, skit, sprint. Wardrobe! Disguise, sketch, run. Wardrobe!

"You literally are standing there while people are stripping off your stuff," Roddick said, eyes still wide in amazement four days after his appearance. "One person is doing your shirt; one person is touching your face. Someone says, `O.K., lift your left foot.' So, you lift your left foot, and a shoe goes in. Literally, you're then sprinting across the studio to your next spot."

Let's see . . . people tugging and nifty footwork, choreographed change-overs and a live audience. Instead of "Live, from New York," this could be "Right now, from anywhere" with Roddick, the ubiquitous, 21-year-old pin-up for the boy-band demographic who has turned men's tennis a few degrees cooler.

"The way I see it, the more matches I win, the cooler I get," Roddick said. "You can ask anyone who knows me, I'm still the biggest dork that ever lived."

The dork dates the singer-actress Mandy Moore, who has been quick to note the difference between her ga-ga fans and his. "No one is sending me their underwear," she told The Chicago Sun-Times in the summer.

The dork has been photographed shirtless in Rolling Stone, with hair tousled in a "Got Milk?" ad, and with his rock-star pal Dave Matthews backstage. "It's funny, I was talking to someone recently and he said you'd better enjoy this time because you have nowhere to go but down now," Roddick said. "I started laughing."

All this time, Roddick thought his only choice was to go up. For four years, he was expected to be the next Andre, the next Pete, the next American hope. For so long, such hype had devoured the sport's young stars in waiting.

But Roddick reveled in it, craved the attention, loved unleashing his inner thespian and thrived on defying the doubters. Just two months after winning the United States Open for his first major title in September, Roddick secured the year-end No. 1 ranking this week during the Masters Series Cup after Andre Agassi defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero to give an insurmountable points lead to his American understudy in superstardom.

"I aim to please," Agassi said Wednesday night.

Roddick is a pleaser, too. He works hard at being the un-diva around his American peers, with an every-guy personality that would make him best-man material. He works even harder at being the IT player for the tour. Unlike Agassi, who struggled with his responsibilities upon his teenage arrival, unlike Sampras, who felt beholden to nothing but his precious serve, Roddick is aware of how important his outreach is to a troubled tour.

"Andy gets it," Patrick McEnroe, the United States' Davis Cup captain, said. "Maybe growing up in an age where sound bites matter and popularity makes a difference — all the stuff that makes you feel like it's a little too much, but goes along with being a big-time pro athlete these days — he has grown up with that. He knows his stature in the game, and that the sport needs a boost. He knows it needs attention in the change-the-channel generation that we live in. In sports, it's `what have you done for me lately?' He gets that."

Lately, Roddick has been a tour official's dreamboat. As the anti-Lleyton Hewitt, Roddick is willing to be the sport's front man, but the tour has to be careful not to squander this opportunity to regain some of its fan base.

Roddick provides a glossy cover, but beneath the buzz, there are issues dogging the men's governing body, the ATP. Over the last year, a splinter group of disgruntled players was formed, an investigation into match-rigging was launched, doping problems popped up, and there are still revenue pains left over from a $1 billion marketing deal that went bust three years ago.

Given the factions within the sport — including the ITF, ATP, WTA, agents and tournament directors — Roddick's rise is not a cure for the chaos.

"Every other sport has a commissioner," Roddick said, echoing Agassi's sentiment. "I'd like to see it unified. I think everyone wants what's best for the game, but they want what's best for themselves, as well. If we could just get everyone on one page."

Roddick is doing his part, jetting from media blitzes to Davis Cup matches, all while trying to hold his place at trophy presentations. Can he keep his head together? His parents have provided him with grounding, his friends offer him levity and his new neighbor in Austin may offer him some inspiration.

"Lance Armstrong is one of my idols," said Roddick, who recently bought a house in Texas to be near his older brothers. "It's one thing to be successful in sports and be a champion, but it's another thing to do it after you've been on your deathbed. Then to dominate, and keep finding inspiration, that's special.

"You even look at Andre, how he's won everything, but still goes out there and fights for every point. All of it puts you in your place real fast."

To hear Roddick, he is just a dork in a cool guy's costume, with a little help from the good folks in wardrobe. To tennis, his transformation from next to now has given the sport momentum it should not waste.

J. Corwin
11-14-2003, 08:01 AM
Cool stuff.

11-14-2003, 04:05 PM
brilliant:clap2:..thanks bunk:wavey:...this article is great:dance:

11-14-2003, 04:07 PM
yeah..... that's why the NYTimes is a lot more respected than the Houston Chronicle LOL!

11-14-2003, 04:15 PM
yeah..... that's why the NYTimes is a lot more respected than the Houston Chronicle LOL!