Andy Roddick: "It's really the resting place you want at the end of a tennis career.”

1/23/2017


Interview Courtesy of USTA

Nearly as missed in the press room as he is on the court, Andy Roddick spent some time in a Q & A with members of the media on site at the Australian Open, discussing his thoughts on Hall of Fame induction, career reflections, and thoughts on the current game.  

THE MODERATOR: Before we start, I'd like to hand it over to the CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Todd Martin.

TODD MARTIN: Thank you all for coming out. As you would have all learned this morning, we are formally announcing the induction class for the 2017 members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Vic Braden and Steve Flink in the contributor category, as well as Monique Kalkman-Van Den Bosch in the wheelchair tennis category, and in the recent player category Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick, who is with us here today. Later on this evening we will be on the court, Rod Laver Arena, announcing the class in front of the evening patrons here at the Australian Open. So thank you very much.

Andy, congratulations.

ANDY RODDICK: Thank you, Todd.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Andy.

Q. Is this kind of surreal?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, definitely. I've talked about it this week. I know the standard lines of how honored you are and how much it means to you. It's different. It's extremely true. I'm not Roger, I'm not Serena. I'm not one of these people where it's just a matter of years passing.

So I'm incredibly thankful. I knew I was in with a shot, kind of like my playing career, but you didn't know if you were going to get over that hurdle.

It's certainly appreciated. I've been a fanatic about tennis for so long. Even reading the list of the people that would be on court, I can think of a personal story of when I'm eight and nine, how they affected it. A Christmas present that I was given that related to one of those people somehow. The impact that the Hall of Famers before me had directly on my life, and by virtue of that kind of a trickle-down effect through me to other people around me, is significant in my life.

'Hall of Famer' has a deep meaning to me.

Q. You once said in your early playing career you set yourself four goals, to win the US Open, to win Wimbledon, to be world No. 1, to win Davis Cup. Is the one that got away...
ANDY RODDICK: I don't have to choose. Three out of four sounds pretty good. I wish I would have gotten the one that got away.

Contrary to what anyone would believe, those can live in harmony. Those were big goals. They were lofty goals. I think one of those can make a lifetime. I consider myself lucky.

Q. You've brought so much to the sport with your serve, power game, incredible role in Davis Cup. What would you say in your own words is your contribution to the sport of tennis?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. It's really hard to be objective. I was, again, talking about it this week. Someone wanted to talk about regret. I don't think not getting a result you want warrants regret. I think being upset with the process you had towards those goals is a regret, and I don't have that.

I got up every morning with an intent, with a goal. Some of them worked; some of them were massive failures. But the way I went about the process of it kind of mitigates regret.

Q. A few days ago there was a match that Karlovic won 22-20. Did it sound any bell in your mind about 21-19 to El Aynaoui?
ANDY RODDICK: Yes, but I did it from six feet tall. I didn't even need the extra foot (smiling).

Listen, you watch a game long enough, you're going to have some stuff, some cool stuff, that happens. I think it's naïve to think that stuff lasts forever, especially with the seven-footers lurking around. They like to hog all the long records.

Q. Do you have an opinion on whether tennis should move to a tiebreak in all final sets?
ANDY RODDICK: I'm so torn on that. I know if you're selling a sport, and the health of our sport relies on eyeballs and television sets, we want to make changes to get as many eyeballs on those sets and make sure they're focused also. It benefits everyone. It directly relates to more ad sales, more interest, more cover.

But then you walk through a place like Newport, Rhode Island, and see the history of it, the romantic parts of it. If you gave me a dollar either side I could argue convincingly.

Q. People have mentioned Davis Cup. We've got a round coming up where a lot of the big players aren't going to be playing in it. Is that something you regret? What do you think can be done to change that, to get the top players to play?
ANDY RODDICK: It's funny because we ask questions in this game that pertain to specific niches, like the Davis Cup, the season length of an ATP schedule, anything that pertains to a Grand Slam.

I think until people are actually willing to kind of give up their little piece of a pie for greater good, where we can make significant change... You can't make significant change to a Davis Cup schedule because you're handcuffed by 10 other entities in tennis.

This goes to the schedule, the length of it, it's the same conversation we were having 15 years ago. I could have literally not been gone five years and been fluent in this conversation. But I think at some point you have to give your fans the opportunity to miss the game a little bit.

I think the more we pile on and pile on and pile on and pile on, and as we're piling on, the people we're holding accountable are the people that allow us to keep piling on. So criticizing those guys for making decisions they have to make...

We still love that Roger is here when he's 35, yet we criticize him for taking a week off. Doesn't make any sense.

Q. The other day Roger Federer said all players agree on the fact that there shouldn't be a neutral final for the Davis Cup, there should be a home tie. When we asked if there was anything where all players agreed to change in Davis Cup, nothing came out. Is there one thing in particular that if you could change for the Davis Cup you would like to do?
ANDY RODDICK: I think the easiest solution is the people that play the longest...

The dangerous part about ideas is that sometimes we ignore how that affects everything else, right? So me blurting out an idea isn't as easy as just that idea working. Trust me, I've lived in America the last year and a half, so I'm almost an expert on that.

If there was a way in a perfect world to give the two finalist teams a bye the next year, to where they actually had some space between September and February, I don't think we would see as many of the guys missing February ties. I think it would be an easier ask of the players.

Q. I don't know what anybody thinks, but I believe you were as missed in the press room as you were on court. Apart from that, have you thought about what you're going to say in your speech and who you're going to bring with you?
ANDY RODDICK: Those are two questions. I haven't thought about it in context of a speech. Since kind of starting this process, kind of the conversation with Todd, not knowing that we were going to end up here, little things happen and you think of certain things. You go, Wow, that should probably be included.

As far as like a formalized thing, I haven't. It's probably something that over the coming months, I'll probably have to take a more organized look.

But as far as who, I have a pretty clear picture in my mind of what that looks like.

Q. In terms of that first part, the highlight video I've watched of you most is when you're sitting in that chair after you lost to Roger one of the years. How much do you take pride in that part of your career? The Hall of Fame induction is sort of all-encompassing. Part of your contribution to the sport was your candor in that department.
ANDY RODDICK: 'Pride' is a weird word to talk about press conferences (smiling).

My wife didn't call me back for five months after I called her. I forget who it was, maybe her manager brought it up. Have you ever thought about calling that guy back?

Not really, seems kind of like a douche.

She actually watched the same thing and liked it. So that did have life-altering ramifications that were very good.

Q. What was more challenging in your career, to go to the slow French clay courts every year...
ANDY RODDICK: Yes (laughter).

Q. ...or tournament after tournament coming in to press conferences, especially after losses?
ANDY RODDICK: French was tough. I mean, I don't think it was coincidental that whenever I played somebody French, I played on the slowest, wettest court there at 7:30 at night. Part of me respected it.

But no, I mean, this part, listen, I hope that you all who covered me, I appreciated honesty. I appreciated opinion, as long as it didn't cross a line of personally going after someone who was in the orbit of my life at that time. I appreciated an honest conversation.

I don't know if you guys did all the time, but hopefully at the end you did. And if not, I apologize.

Q. Roger has been a big part of your career. Now even tonight when you go back on court you will see him. He's also congratulated you already on Twitter with pretty nice words. Can you describe a little bit the relationship and the rivalry. He has had the better of you often.
ANDY RODDICK: Only by 18 matches, though (smiling). I beat him the last time. He's lucky I retired.

I think the easiest word is 'respect'. He obviously is going to get that anywhere he goes. I appreciate his respect that he's shown me throughout the years.

It's weird because you share history with someone. It becomes a part of your definition for a long time. I'm happy that a part of my definition is as respectful, as classy and as good of a human as Roger. It would be tougher for me to hear if the person that kind of ruined me on court for a decade didn't have the moral fiber of someone like Roger.

Q. Many journalists talk and speak about tennis players. Can you for once talk and speak about a journalist, Steve Flink, who is honored as a Hall of Famer.
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know Steve well personally. It's funny how the divide works here. Sometimes you get past it, and sometimes there are conversations had behind the curtain.

But, listen, we're all part of the same traveling circus. We commit our lives to the sport we love. I think all we want is someone who gets that honor to have a pure love for the sport. From what I know of Steve, he has that. He has plenty of that.

I think as players, we certainly appreciate a job well done on your side, as I hope you guys do on our side.

Q. From the guys you know pretty well from your playing career, Murray and Djokovic are out, Roger and Rafa are through to the quarters. Your thoughts on the tournament? Also, do you ever watch tennis now and wonder, Could I still be playing?
ANDY RODDICK: I'll answer the second part of your question first.

Yeah, I mean, I think anyone who tells you they don't wonder is lying. But the moments of wondering seriously are very fleeting. I know a lot of athletes who always pretend like when they played, it doesn't get better than that.

It's better than that. The way the guys hit the ball, the way they move... Tennis is just crazy now. If you ever want a refresher course on the way it's grown, take whatever date you're looking at currently, put in a tape of 15 or 20 years before, and continue that process. The evolution of the game has just been amazing. That says nothing disrespectful about the generations before.

What I see now I want no piece of, no piece of. What Roger's doing and maintaining at 35 years old, what Venus and Serena are still doing... I know everyone talks about it. Everyone here is going to talk about it in every story they write for the rest of this tournament, and I still don't know if that's enough. It's pretty amazing.

Specifically to this tournament, the kind of outlier that I like and that I see, I don't know how much the players have talked about it, but it looks quicker, it looks faster, which lends itself to some dicey results. If you get a guy like Zverev who catches lightning in a bottle, plays a game that is pretty forceful, he cracks a good return, he's not just a neutral, he's maybe better than neutral, it lends itself to some variants.

I'm sure Roger's not disappointed in the way the courts were playing when he got here ahead of this tournament. But like every tennis fan, which is the role I play now, who wouldn't want to see the Williams sisters, who wouldn't want to see a matchup between Roger and Rafa with history on the line.

If you think about the historical significance of what that match would look like, one at 14 slams, one at 17 slams, Rafa wins, it's 15-17, and the French Open is around the corner, it's back on. It's literally game on for the most slams ever. If Roger wins, it's 18-14. I don't know that that divide gets made up.

If that happens, it has to be the most important match in Australian Open history and possibly Grand Slam history.

Q. What's the toughest stroke you've ever faced?
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, gosh. It's tough. I hate that because you have to get some context. You can't teach seven-feet-tall serving. Karlovic, Isner. I think it's the sum of all parts.

We've been lucky, because I saw it up close too often. The combination of having all the tools, being able to utilize them at will, and picking and choosing your spots, and also figuring out what in your repertoire is going to affect the person the most.

We've seen a lot of guys, four or five guys, over the past 15 years do that every single day, and do it to each other every single day. It's this chess match of matchups. For me it's fascinating.

Q. Watching the next generation of players coming through, what do you think when you see a guy like Nick Kyrgios coming in?
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, we almost made it (smiling).

I'm going to need a more specific question just so I'm not grandstanding.

Q. What would your advice be to him to get himself on track?
ANDY RODDICK: I mean, he's saying the right things. You watch his press conferences. Telling someone something, them hearing you, it's different. Until he decides he's ready to hear it, then it really doesn't matter.

Does he go about it the way that I would go about it if I had his talent? No. But that's his process. If he was perfect at everything, you guys wouldn't be nearly as entertained. You wouldn't have as much to write about. Frankly, we probably wouldn't watch as much.

I do think he's good for the game. If he does ever figure it out, that's going to be a fun story, too.

Q. How does it feel to devote your entire life to tennis, to this sport, and then retire? What's the feeling?
ANDY RODDICK: You make it sound so drab (smiling).

Yeah, I mean, it's bittersweet. I mean, the good news is there's no laws against me going out and hitting tennis balls with some buddies any time I want to. It's not like you take yourself away from the game completely. The innocent parts of tennis I'll always have access to. The parts that you fell in love with initially are always there. I don't know if I need lights or an audience to enjoy it.

 

International Tennis Hall of Fame

Article posted by: International Tennis Hall of Fame. We can be reached at blog@tennisfame.com

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