Andy Roddick: Captain America
By Ray McNulty
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
VERO BEACH — Two days after the United States won the Davis Cup for the first time since 1995, the Americans' unquestionable leader modestly tried to play down his place on the team.
"I'm part of it, but I don't know if we have a leader,"
Roddick said Tuesday night at The Boulevard Village and Tennis Club, where he played in a charity event spawned by Mardy Fish, his childhood buddy and fellow touring pro. "I'm still the youngest guy on the team."
He's also the most successful.
And, maybe, the most committed to the cause.
At age 26
, Roddick already ranks fourth among U.S. players in Davis Cup singles victories (26) and singles matches (35). He is 9-0 in tie-clinching matches — the best such record in U.S. Davis Cup history, which dates back only 107 years. And he was a perfect 6-0 this year.
"We all feed off him. He's our rock,"
said Fish, who grew up in this picturesque, seaside town and is a member of the U.S. team, though he didn't play in a tie this year. "He has made Davis Cup a priority in his career, and his love for it is contagious.
"If Andy wasn't there, I'm sure we'd all still take pride in playing for the red, white and blue. But when your country's best player places so much importance on Davis Cup, it makes everyone else want to be a part of it."
It's the combination of playing for his country and being part of a team, Roddick said, that makes Davis Cup so special to him.
Roddick was 10 years old and in the building when Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras beat Switzerland in Dallas in 1992 — the last time the Davis Cup final had been played on U.S. soil until this past weekend in Portland, Ore., where Roddick won the opening match to lead the Americans to a 4-1 triumph over Russia.
And he said watching that star-studded team made an impact.
When he played his way onto the ATP Tour in 2000, he made winning the Davis Cup one of his career goals.
"I think I was aware of what it would mean to me if we won, and I certainly wasn't disappointed," Roddick said. "To have accomplished it, to share it with my buddies, my teammates, it was an amazing feeling. It was fun. Very special. It meant a lot."
It meant every bit as much to him as winning the U.S. Open and claiming the No. 1 ranking in 2003.
And maybe more.
"It's a different feeling," he said. "The Davis Cup was a long time coming. The U.S. Open? It felt like I turned pro and won the Open. It happened kind of quick. But winning the Davis Cup was a long road. And to make this journey with these guys ... I loved it.
"I really look forward to Davis Cup weeks. The competition is so big, so important."
And his teammates.
And to the tennis community.
But, sadly, most of America didn't care enough to notice what was happening last weekend at Portland's Memorial Coliseum. Most U.S. sports fans were busy watching football.
Truth is, the U.S. victory didn't make many front pages, which probably says more about tennis' disappearance from our sports radar than it does about the Davis Cup's place in the game.
"Instead of writing a story about a couple of guys accomplishing their dream, it's all about a defunct BCS system
and who's getting arrested and whatever else is going on," Roddick said. "You can't really worry about that. A lot of the media — not only in tennis, but across the board — has become sensationalized. And, unfortunately, you go for the controversial stories sometimes. It seems like people have sports shows just to argue now. (is he getting smarter and smarter on us by the day?)
"So we knew that day that it wasn't going to get the coverage of a lot of other things, but I don't think it changed the meaning of it for us."
Not for Roddick.
Not for Fish.
Even though he didn't play.
"I was there, ready to step in if they needed me," Fish said. "That's what made this whole thing so special. That team feel. The guys really made me feel like I was a part of it, even though I didn't play. We were all in it together, doing something we'll never forget."
And they'll all be back next year, trying to defend their title.
Especially their leader.
"I'll be there in February," Roddick said.