March 20, 2003
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: First question, please.
Q. First of all, Andy, welcome. Hello.
ANDY RODDICK: Thank you.
Q. You feel good?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I feel good. After Palm Springs, I took probably a couple days off to try to get rid of everything. You know, I've been feeling pretty good during practice.
Q. We all hope you're going to go on to bigger and better things, but your career will always be defined to a point with that match in Melbourne. It's gone into sort of history now as one of the great matches. You've had time to reflect. Can you reflect a bit about it and what it means to you now?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, it's definitely taken on kind of its own entity. It was amazing to participate in. I've said it ever since we played, people have been asking about it. I mean, I think the drama of it was great, the length of it was great, you know, the physicalness of it was great. But the most impressive thing was the fact that we kept up the level for that long. I didn't believe the stats when I saw them after the match. I thought someone might have been playing a joke on me. I mean, I make 33 errors in a set, and I made it for five sets including the massive one. So it was pretty special.
Q. There's been debate I noticed in Tennis Week and other publications about whether you should have played the tiebreak in the fifth. There was an interesting article by a young coach who said, "No, it was so special because it went on so long." What is your feeling about that?
ANDY RODDICK: I think there's definitely an argument both ways. You wouldn't have had the -- I don't think you would have the -- it wouldn't be as unique of a match if we would have played the tiebreaker. But that being said, I might have been able to play fully two days later. So, you know, part of me just absolutely loves it. You're going to have those special matches. But, you know, the greedy part of me would have loved to have been able to compete two days later. I don't think there's a clear cut answer.
Q. You play with a lot more variety this year, coming in more, using the slice, backhand. Do you see your game evolving into an all-court game?
ANDY RODDICK: Obviously, I think my game centers around the serve and the forehand. That's not too much of a mystery. But when that's not working, I need something to kind of throw it up and give someone a different look. I've definitely done that this year and I'm still not where I want to be as far as doing that. Just to have something different in the bag would be ideal.
Q. Are you comfortable doing that?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I like it. It's kind of a mindset, too. You have to kind of make up your mind to do it and force yourself to do it. I definitely like the challenge and I like being the aggressor.
Q. Your first couple years on tour you were compared as "the youngest player to do this since Michael Chang," "to do that since Michael Chang." Michael's playing this tournament for the last time. Can you just sort of talk about growing up, you know, watching his career. He's someone that you really looked up to, just what it's like seeing his farewell...
ANDY RODDICK: I think the very first match I actually sat down and watched continuously without getting up every two and a half minutes was probably the one he played against Lendl in the '89 French Open, where he was cramping. Obviously, I think my second-ever Grand Slam win came against him, that match at the French Open. So it's definitely -- he's definitely been, you know, awesome throughout the years. He's been very classy. You never hear any controversy around him. He goes about his business. He'll be missed.
Q. Could you explain why you went to the different stringing? I hear the polyester string is a trend a lot of players are using to maybe blunt some of the power. Is that why you went to it? How is it helping?
ANDY RODDICK: I like it. It does, I feel like I can create power with most strings, but this curves it a little bit. I just like it. It felt comfortable.
Q. Is it a concern, because of the extra pressure on the arm or shoulder at all?
ANDY RODDICK: No.
Q. I know you've been asked this ad nauseam about the young American players, but is there any different quality between all of you in the last few weeks, based on the success a variety of people have had?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't understand, like...?
Q. Do you feel buoyed by the success of all the young Americans that are coming up now?
ANDY RODDICK: I like it. I think there's a sense of excitement, you know. I've kind of been out there, 2001, I was there by myself. James kind of stepped it up last year. Now we've kind of opened the floodgates and these guys are starting to play well, win matches on a consistent basis. So it's pretty exciting.
Q. Has that brought you closer together?
ANDY RODDICK: We were always close. You know, maybe it will bring us closer together because they'll start playing the big tournaments overseas, maybe our schedules will go together a little bit better. But we've always been pretty tight.
Q. Do you feel any extra pressure or incentive playing here in front of your hometown fans?
ANDY RODDICK: No, I mean, I've played here a couple times. Got my first-ever win here. So, you know, I have some pretty fond memories here.
Q. Obviously, Brian Vahaly has gone the college route before turning pro. What do you think about turning pro early or going to college?
ANDY RODDICK: In his circumstance, I think it might have been beneficial. I don't know if he was ready out of the Juniors. He didn't have a lot of power or anything. I think going to college, getting confident, winning matches, you know, I think it helped him, you know. If I would have gone to college, I think it would have been a waste of time, to be perfectly honest. But it's a personal decision that each person has to make. You know, he definitely has something to fall back on also. I have a lot of respect for him.
Q. This morning, Monica Seles addressed her concerns of security on and off the court with the WTA. Your feelings at all with the ATP?
ANDY RODDICK: I feel fine. I mean, I don't really think about it much. Obviously, you know, I don't think we can all have the perspective that Monica's had about things. But as far as security goes, I feel fine. I never really think about it too much.
Q. Is it different with a sport like tennis where some players who might not be as well-known to the public can walk back and forth to the practice courts with no problem; some others more popular can't do that, just because of the number of fans around?
ANDY RODDICK: What's the exact question?
Q. Some players can walk back and forth to a practice court and not be noticed by the fans, where other players, more popular, are stopped by fans. Is there a little difference? Where do you fit in with that?
ANDY RODDICK: Fit in, as far as people?
ANDY RODDICK: As far as people what...?
Q. Compare tennis to other sports, you're around fans a lot closer.
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, yeah, definitely. We don't have -- most other, you know, sports have arenas where you can get shuffled through a back hallway or a team bus that you can board. I think tennis is unique in that aspect that we're pretty much -- we're seeing our fans face-to-face on a daily basis at tournaments, whether it be practice courts or whatever. That's got to be pretty cool for fans, you know. You can kind of get up close and personal.
Q. Do you enjoy that?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, it's nice. You know, it's cool. Like I said, it's not like that in many other sports. Maybe golf, the exception. I'm trying to think of other ones. But I think it's pretty cool.
Q. Last stringing question, the polyester string, most people want more power, so the racquets give you that. Is this like the opposite of that? Are you using this to take away the power? Does it give you more spin? What is the benefit of it?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. I just like the way it felt, to be honest. I think you can get a little bit more whip on the ball, little more toss. You have to be able to do that. I don't know if the average club player can take full-round swings and make the ball come down. I string it looser. It just feels good. I don't think about it too much, to be honest.
Q. What do you have, 53, 55?
ANDY RODDICK: Something like that, yeah.
Q. Can you talk about the physical aspects of this sport. Now it's becoming more and more physical. We've watched it develop over the years, it's a different game. Everybody talks about your injuries. Give us an idea of how physical and how physically demanding it is to recover from a big match and get back on court.
ANDY RODDICK: Absolutely. I don't know how many other sports you're out there running side to side every point for, you know, two and a half hours with no teammates to pass the ball off to or coach to sub you, sub someone in for you. I think it's very, you know -- in a lot of sports you get out there and you give it your all for a minute or two, swimming or, you know, anything else. And that's good enough; you can call it a day. Or even in basketball, these guys, they marvel at guys playing 45 minutes. They're like, "Oh, you only took 3 minutes off." They play 45 minutes. They don't know how tired we get.
Q. With the situation in Europe, are you thinking about your schedule, about playing in Europe at all?
ANDY RODDICK: Sorry?
Q. With the situation in Europe right now, are you thinking about the schedule, your playing schedule?
ANDY RODDICK: No, I'm going to do it as normal. I'm going to just try to go about things as I would normally.
Q. You've had some success on clay, not as much on the red clay. Americans have done well on clay, but there have been periods of long drought. Do you think there's enough attention paid to playing on clay when you're growing up in the United States as a junior?
ANDY RODDICK: It's tough if you grow up anywhere, but Florida, there are no clay courts, unless you want to fly three hours for a practice. But, you know, I don't know if -- I definitely think the hard courts are in much more abundance than clay courts here. Overseas, you'll go to a local park, there will be all red clay. I think your answer's there.
Q. Just a matter of what's available?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's the same as, you know, you see a lot of kids that grow up up north and they're playing indoors eight months of the year. You get them to an indoor court and they're loving it. I think it's the same thing.
Q. You train in Florida. You think people living in Florida train enough on clay?
ANDY RODDICK: I probably played half my junior tournaments on clay growing up in Florida.
Q. You've played a lot of memorable night matches. You seem like you have an ability to energize crowds at times. Does that crowd participation have any impact on you? Do you prefer night, day?
ANDY RODDICK: It's all right. I mean, I don't mind playing any time. I think there's a little bit more of an edge at night, a little bit more of something in the air, a little electricity. I think the crowds get into it a little bit more at night.
Q. Have you noticed a difference in the weather here this year? I know you haven't played yet.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, it's pretty hot (smiling).
Q. What's the hottest conditions you've ever played in, like where and how did you come out of it? How did your body survive it?
ANDY RODDICK: Paraguay Juniors, 1998. You would go outside and stand, if you just stood still for 25 seconds, you would be sweating.
Q. What was the match like?
ANDY RODDICK: Short.
Q. Do you remember who you played?
ANDY RODDICK: Absolutely not.
Q. Did you win?
ANDY RODDICK: Probably not.
Q. Cincinnati was quite hot this year, wasn't it?
ANDY RODDICK: Cincinnati, it's always pretty toasty there. Same with D.C. during the summer.
Q. Is there anything you do differently going into matches in this climate? What do you do, hydrate more?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I think you just have to be extra cautious about drinking lots because you're going to lose a lot of fluids. You sweat more here than I think anywhere else in the world. You definitely have to pay attention to that.
Q. How much do you drink before a match here?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't really know. Lots of bottles of water.
Q. Just constant, constant?
ANDY RODDICK: Pretty much. You'll see most players here just walking around with a bottle in their hands at most times.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.