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June 18, 2004

Andy Roddick

GREG SHARKO: Good morning to everyone, afternoon for some, and thanks for joining us for today's teleconference with Andy Roddick, who joins us from London. Andy is the No. 2 seed in this years Wimbledon Championships and he'll be playing 19-year-old qualifier Yeu-Tzuoo Wang of Chinese Taipei in the first round on Tuesday. Last Sunday, Andy repeated his title performance at the Queen's Club in London to win his third ATP title of year. He comes into Wimbledon with a 38-8 match record on the season. I'll open it up to questions to the media.

Q. I wanted to ask you about, you probably get this question a lot, it seems like we ask you this every tournament, but now especially with Andre out and the other American players not quite where you are, do you feel a lot of pressure as the one American? Everyone just kind of says American tennis is in Andy Roddick's hands.

ANDY RODDICK: I hadn't really thought about it, to be honest. You know, I think there are a couple more guys, I think Mardy is seeded in the top 16 for the first time here. I don't really think of my tennis -- I think he's been stepping up his game, playing well. I don't really look at my tennis in those terms. I just kind of go about and do my business. I don't really let those thoughts creep into my head too much.

Q. What is the difference between Andy Roddick going into this Wimbledon and Andy Roddick going into last year's Wimbledon?

ANDY RODDICK: I think a lot of it's between the ears. I was playing great tennis at Wimbledon last year. You know, I still think I was playing well enough to have a chance of winning. But I've experienced a lot more big matches in the last year than I probably experienced, you know, combined before that. So I think that's the biggest thing. And just the confidence, knowing that I can win a Grand Slam. My biggest fear was the fear of the unknown. It's a little bit easier this time along, I think.

Q. I was just wondering, that semifinal against Roger last year when you were serving for the first set, even though you lost that match, can you talk about in retrospect how much did coming that close give you the confidence for the rest of the summer?

ANDY RODDICK: Well, being that deep and having a set point against Roger, then watching him go on a couple days later... You know, my whole run through the US Open started at Queen's Club last year. That's when I first started playing, you know, elite caliber tennis on a consistent basis. I think that was definitely a stepping stone towards kind of reaching my goal at the US Open.

Q. You look at the women's game, the women tend to be the same players, Serena has won them both in the same year. Do you really think there's a situation where there's many grass court specialists as there were, say, five or 10 years ago?

ANDY RODDICK: I'm not sure. I think people are a lot more adept on clay now than maybe before. It's just almost two different games. I think the men's game has become so specialized that it is tough to kind of swap back and forth.

Q. In terms of your preparedness, your comfort level on grass versus your preparedness and comfort level on hard courts, are you getting close on the two? Are they similar? Do you still feel like you're that much happier on the hard courts?

ANDY RODDICK: Well, it's tough. I feel great on the grass. I've played as well on grass as I have on hard courts in the past year or so. But the grass, you only play a month out of the year, so it's still a little bit more foreign than a hard court which I've played on my whole life. But I love playing on grass, and I feel like it suits my game.

Q. At this point, do you feel just as good about your chances starting Monday as you presumably will at the end of August at the US Open?

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I think so. I think they're very comparable now.

Q. Talking about the speed and power in the game, you obviously hit the big serve at Queen's last week, do you think the speed has changed just in the time that you've been on the tour?

ANDY RODDICK: I'm not sure. It's tough to say. I don't know if it's been that drastic. I mean, I've only been out here three years now. I haven't noticed it, but maybe that's just because I play against it every day.

Q. With all the power, it's sort of ironic, do you think it's interesting, the return has improved more than the serve despite all the firepower people are generating? Do you agree with that?

ANDY RODDICK: No, you're absolutely right. I think Andre revolutionized the game by taking full cuts at returns. That's become almost more important than the serve itself. You know, if you look at guys from the Top 10 from last year, you'd be hard-pressed to find a guy who returns weakly. It's definitely almost become a bigger part of the game.

Q. As you've evolved as a player, you always sort of developed, whether it's your backhand return, mixing up your serves, every year adding a bit to your game. What area did you focus on going into this year and have you developed any new area of your game?

ANDY RODDICK: I think I'm just continuing to improve. You know, my backhand now as opposed to two years ago, at least I feel in my mind it almost feels like night and day right now. I have a lot more confidence in it. But coming into this grass court season, I really wanted to try to do something with my volleys a little bit more. That's kind of what you've been concentrating on, not just putting them in play. If I'm going to miss them, miss them aggressively or make them aggressively.

Q. The grass court season is so brief. Would you like to see it extended a little bit and do you ever see that happening?

ANDY RODDICK: I don't see it happening any time soon because there's not a whole lot of movement being made to make that happen. But I would love to see it a little bit longer. I don't see how it makes much sense to have a Grand Slam on a surface, but not a Masters Series event on the surface. You know, I'd love to see it longer.

Q. You won two junior slams. Can you talk about your junior experience in those slams and how it helped you as you went on to turn pro?

ANDY RODDICK: Absolutely. The junior slams were pivotal for me. Even though you are playing a juniors, you're not playing for the big prizes, this, that and the other. It's definitely awesome as a junior, being at the same tournaments. You know, the first time I won my -- when I won my first junior Grand Slam, I went on and watched Andre win the big boy Australian Open. So just to feel like you are part of the tournament like later in the week, it's a pretty invaluable experience.

Q. You went on to win the US Open, the big tournament. Only six Wimbledon juniors went on to win that big tournament. Does it guarantee success, not guarantee success? What's the difference?

ANDY RODDICK: It doesn't guarantee success. It doesn't guarantee Grand Slam success. If you win a junior, you're not automatically going to win the pro. Pretty much every professional on tour was a very good junior (laughter). But at the same time you give yourself chances. I mean, if you finish, in my case, I finished No. 1 in the world in jurors, and that gave me a lot of opportunities as far as wildcards and stuff like that. So it did create a lot of opportunities as a professional.

Q. Is it as hard to win a junior slam as it is to win a big slam?

ANDY RODDICK: I don't think so. The pressure's not anywhere near as a big slam. Obviously, you're competing against the depth within probably two years of age as opposed to 10 or 12 years. So it's definitely I think a lot tougher to win a professional Grand Slam.

Q. We've got our Masters tournament coming up here in Canada next month. I know you haven't seen the new stadium in Toronto. I'm wondering what kind of impact you think a new stadium will have in bringing players up here, boosting the sports profile?

ANDY RODDICK: I think the players were ready to come regardless. But I think -- I'm pretty sure I'm correct in saying it's supposed to be the new National Training Center, as well. You know, if that is the case like I think it is, it just shows a commitment towards tennis. And that's obviously a big boost in itself.

Q. What are your thoughts on coming up here again?

ANDY RODDICK: I'm excited. I've had great results in Canada the last three years. You know, it's been very good to me. I'm definitely looking forward coming back to Toronto and seeing the new facilities.

Q. A little bit more about Toronto. I wonder if you could talk about how it will help you prepare for the Olympics and the US Open eventually?

ANDY RODDICK: I mean, they're all kind of relevant to each other. I mean, obviously if you play well in Cincinnati or Toronto, you know your confidence is going to be pretty high, or a lot higher going into the US Open. Last year I kind of gained a lot of momentum through the summer events. You know, that definitely helped me carry it over.

Q. How are you feeling about playing at the Olympics?

ANDY RODDICK: I'm so excited. You know, it's something I've been watching since I can remember. I'm definitely very pumped up to get there. It should be a great experience.

Q. Do you find the turnover between the US Open and the Olympics tough? Fairly close together.

ANDY RODDICK: It's going to be tough. I mean, there's no doubt about it that there's a lot of tennis to be played this summer. But there aren't going to be any surprises. You know going in it's going to be a tough stretch and you just do your best to deal with it.

Q. Your thoughts of the US Open Series, what kind of impact that will really have leading up to the US Open? Is it an incentive for the players, you feel?

ANDY RODDICK: It's definitely an incentive. I wish they would have put it in place last year (laughter). No, I mean, I think it definitely generates kind of a buzz, you know, brings some more attention to the game. I don't see any downside for the players. So it should be good.

Q. You talk about last summer, your big run really started on the hard courts with Indianapolis. Going back as defending champion, does that give you that much more confidence?

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, I don't think one year has relevance to another as far as confidence goes. It kind of just depends on how you're playing at the moment. But, you know, it was my first time there, I really enjoyed playing there. It's a good way to start off the summer season.

Q. I want to talk about just the general popularity of tennis in America. You're actually a little bit too young to remember, but right about the time you were born, tennis was huge. Every businessman and businesswoman was out there wearing their little tennis tugs to the grocery store, everything was playing racquetball, squash or tennis. Where do you think tennis fits in in the sports landscape in America? Is there anything that can be done to bring it back to that popularity level or do you think that would never happen again?

ANDY RODDICK: No, I sure hope there is. I think it's vital for the States to have interest and to have players at the top of the game. I mean, that goes without saying. But it's tough in the States. There's so many sports to choose from. You know, it's definitely tough to get your fair shake. But, you know, I can't really worry about, you know, what's out of my control. I know if I try to continue to win matches and if Mardy and Taylor step up and start winning matches, it definitely can't hurt, it can only help.

Q. Do you think that's the main thing, just American players? Even back then, people did pay attention to some of the top foreign players that had big personalities.

ANDY RODDICK: No, I'm definitely not saying they won't pay attention to foreign players. But it is a necessity to have a couple American players at the top. You know, obviously Becker was huge in the States. It's a definite necessity for American players to be playing well to promote interest.

Q. You got close last year, a sniff of what it takes to win the title. What did you learn from that? Will you do anything different or do what you did a little better?

ANDY RODDICK: No, I think it, you know, came down to a couple points here and there, then I ran into a person who was just playing great on the day. I thought I played very well at Wimbledon last year. Up to that point, that was by far the best I'd played in a Grand Slam event. I am a year wiser now. I've played in a lot of big matches since that semifinal last year. So I think that can only help.

Q. You guys travel through so many time zones. Tennis is so much more global than any of the other sports. Can it continue to be so or do you think a setup like the PGA TOUR would be better where you have a main tour on different continents coming together on the major?

ANDY RODDICK: (Audio difficulty.)

GREG SHARKO: Andy might have cut out on us, he was traveling in London.

I appreciate everybody's time this afternoon and this morning. Thanks for joining us.

End of FastScriptsâ?¦.

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