Roddick changes his mind, won't play at Delray
By Harvey Fialkov
January 28, 2006
DELRAY BEACH -- In a controversial decision, Andy Roddick overruled his last-minute decision to enter the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships and pulled out Friday night.
It appears Roddick was not thrilled about having to go through qualifying matches this weekend for a chance to earn one of the four spots available in the 32-player draw. Tournament organizers had already given out the ATP-mandated three wild cards to eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi, Mardy Fish and Sargis Sargsian -- Agassi's hitting partner who retired after the U.S. Open.
At first, Roddick seemed fine with having an opportunity to become the ATP's first top-seeded qualifier, so that he could better prepare for the upcoming Davis Cup competition with Romania (Feb. 10-12) in La Jolla, Calif., particularly after getting bounced from the Australian Open in the fourth round by eventual finalist Marcos Baghdatis.
However, Roddick, who flew in from his other home in Austin, Texas, Friday afternoon, grew testier as the day wore on. During a 90-minute practice session with fellow Boca Raton resident Vincent Spadea in front of about 40 fortunate spectators on the Delray Beach Tennis Center's Stadium Court, Roddick screamed about the blustery conditions.
"I love the wind. Awesome," Roddick shouted before smashing one racket and whacking a ball out of the stadium.
Roddick, who politely turned down any formal interviews with the media, did lob a few digs at the ATP's wild-card rule and tournament organizers as he walked to the locker room.
"Why would I get a wild card into an American tournament, [being the] top-ranked American?" Roddick asked, taking a sarcastic backhand swat at whomever he deemed at fault. "Why would that happen? That makes too much sense."
Despite a disappointing withdrawal by the charismatic James Blake, who cited schedule overload as he too gets ready for Davis Cup, Paul Goldstein and Jiri Novak, Roddick wasn't permitted direct entry into the draw because those who committed to the tournament six weeks ago were given priority.
That meant instead of Roddick, the third-ranked player in the world, the fans will get to see unknowns such as Michael Berrer, Oliver Marach and Igor Kunitsyn.
"In order to get into the tournament you have to enter 42 days in advance and Andy didn't do that," ATP supervisor Tom Barnes said. "The only other way to get in is to get a wild card or to play qualifiers and win, or be a lucky loser if there's a spot. Or if one of the wild cards withdrew before we made the draw."
Roddick wasn't interested in hearing about rules.
"Maybe, I should play more Davis Cup, that's the story. Oh, wait, I do," Roddick cracked.
Spadea, 31, who is mounting yet another comeback, had to make it through qualifiers to get into the main draw at Sydney two weeks ago before losing to Lleyton Hewitt in the first round.
"Playing two matches in one day is challenging," Spadea said. "This is something that's out of this tennis world. It's unbelievable and at the same time Roddick is unbelievable in a lot of great ways.
"But I'll believe it when I see the first point played."
Tournament director Mark Baron, who was doing figurative cartwheels in his office after Roddick called Thursday evening to request admission into the $380,000 tournament, said the strong field featuring Agassi, Tommy Haas and Robby Ginepri already had tickets being sold at a record pace.
"[Roddick] did not commit and after careful consideration following training [Friday], Andy told us that he would not participate in the qualifying tournament," Baron said in a statement.
Roddick who reached the finals here in 2002 where he lost to Davide Sanguinetti, told Baron that he would remain in South Florida to train for the Davis Cup tie.
"If he went out there and lost in the qualifying, obviously that wouldn't be too good for his confidence," Goldfine said before Roddick changed his mind. "But you can't worry about the losing. You have to look at the upside of preparing for Davis Cup."
Several hopeful qualifiers were strolling the grounds peeking in at Roddick.
"Those guys in the Top 10 who drop down, you have too many guys who will scrap harder and take them, so it's best to stay out of the qualies if you can," said Mashiska Washington, 31, ranked 776.
Evidently, Roddick took Washington's advice.