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REGIONS MORGAN KEEGAN CHAMPIONSHIPS MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 3, 2011
GREG SHARKO: Good afternoon and thanks for joining in for today's call with two-time Regions Morgan Keegan champion Andy Roddick who joins us from his home in Austin. Andy returns to Memphis for the 11th consecutive year. He won the title in 2002 and 2009 and owns a 30-7 career mark.
Andy is No. 3 among active players on the ATP World Tour with 29 titles. He and Roger Federer are the only active players to finish in the top 10 the past nine years.
Before I turn it over, I'll ask for some questions from our tournament director Peter Lebedevs.
PETER LEBEDEVS: Thank you for taking your time to be on the call.
A quick question for you, Andy. You've been to Memphis for the last 10 years. Obviously with the record that Greg just said, very successful. What are the things about Memphis that you like that makes you keep coming back all these years?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, it's an intimate event, probably more so than a lot of the tournaments we play. I like that. I think it's a rarity to have a small feel of playing at a tennis club. Memphis certainly provides that. I think we all enjoy that about it.
PETER LEBEDEVS: One of the other players the other day said it feels like a cage on the center court, kind of small, but we like that atmosphere.
Another question. Over the last few years, in the middle of this great career of yours, what things have changed for preparing for 2011 compared for how you prepared for, say, 2005? Are you doing less stuff on court, more in the gym? How have your preparations changed going forward in your career?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, probably a big point is about staying healthy. The last probably two years is the first time I ever had to deal with that in my career. I think that's become the priority recently.
PETER LEBEDEVS: Andy, thanks.
GREG SHARKO: We'll open it up to questions for Andy.
Q. Talk about the association with your coach, with Larry, and assess what it's meant for your game.
ANDY RODDICK: It's been really successful. I guess in my mind I break it down into the healthy time that we had, probably the first nine months of '09, which was very good for me. I had a semi in a slam and a final in a slam. Probably the first four months of last year, which I was No. 1 in the race afterwards.
So now it's just a matter of everything is healthy again, it's a matter of getting the tennis back on track like we had it going last year. I think the most important thing about Australia for me was that I finished healthy after an extended period of playing.
Q. More of a marketing-type question. Here in Memphis, they have you scheduled for a 7 p.m. Tuesday night match. How prevalent is that on tour at events of this size and do you like it?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, I like it 'cause it takes a lot of mystery out of when you're going to play. It's easy to prepare from the Friday, Saturday before. From a tournament standpoint, I certainly understand it. People want to know what their buying. I think that goes with any sort of entertainment ticket or product.
So I think everybody wins with kind of knowing what the schedule's going to be.
Q. What is your schedule looking like right now in the month of February? Where are you going to be going into Memphis at this point?
ANDY RODDICK: I'll be up in New York next week. Going to hit some with Courier, our Davis Cup captain. Then I'll probably try to get to Memphis a little bit early and try to get some sets in.
Q. Is that part of the plan of kind of easing back, coming back from Australia, trying to get a little bit of rest going into Memphis? What was the thought process on that on your scheduling?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I think getting to Memphis early is just a matter of you go to where players are to get some sets in. As far as resting, I've been working since Australia. For me it's more about just being prepared going in.
Q. Andy, how do you feel like you played in the Australian? Analyze that a little bit.
ANDY RODDICK: I played okay. I think I played better in Brisbane than I did in Melbourne. The conditions were a little weird. It was colder, so everything was playing a little bit slower which is not going to benefit me against some of the guys.
Obviously I was disappointed with the last match I played. But, you know, made a final in Brisbane, made the second week in Australia.
Like I said before, I think my biggest thing was the first kind of stretch of tennis where I've been healthy since May of last year. That was a good thing, that my body held up. So that's something encouraging to take from it.
Q. You've won this tournament a couple of times. If you don't win it this year, who do you think might?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't even want to think about anybody else winning it (laughter).
Q. Last year Sam Querrey and John Isner in the final. You've been kind of the class of American tennis for a while. What do you think about some of the guys that are coming up behind you that are going to be your competition in this tournament and probably for a while to come?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, Isner and Querrey had a good start to last year. They probably haven't been playing as well as they wanted to recently. It's always telling. Getting into the top 20 is one thing. I think getting into the top 10, the top 5 takes another level of commitment. I'm going to be interested to see how they progress from where they're at right now.
Q. Do you think it just kind of comes in waves? Is there any pattern to it as far as good American players coming up? Is it random or does it have anything to do with our culture, what's popular at the time?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I know it's kind of the in-vogue article about American tennis right now and how bad it is. But I understand a lot of American journalists, you can't really say where are all the American football players, because only football exists in America, so you have to go with something international.
It's become a much bigger sport worldwide, so it's going to become a little bit more diluted. From what I've seen, I'd like to see the younger American players hungrier and really passionate about the game of tennis as opposed to just being content with traveling around.
Q. Jim Courier is coming to town for an exhibition right before Memphis. Could you talk about your feelings for him with his being named Davis Cup captain, what you think he might bring.
ANDY RODDICK: I'm excited. You know, there's only a handful of guys who are Grand Slam champions that have been at the top of the sport. So to be able to kind of pick the brain of a another guy who's done that always excites me.
Jim and I have been friends for a long time. He's always supported me. I was certainly happy with his selection as our new Davis Cup captain.
Q. You also mentioned having American players hungrier. You burst out relatively quickly in your later teen years. How difficult is it now with it being such a worldwide sport to bust out early like that? Do you think people get impatient?
ANDY RODDICK: The stat that I'm going to feed you for the story that I'm guessing you're writing is the average age in the top 100 right now is 27 years old, which I think last year might have been the oldest of all time.
I think that's because tennis has become a lot more physical. When you're playing with a not fully developed body at 18 or 19 years old, I just feel like it's tougher nowadays than even when I came up 11 years ago. You see the mature players kind of doing better. There's no such thing as a slow top tennis player anymore. In generations past, I don't think that was the case.
Q. So you're a mature player now since you're at that age now, right?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I'd like to think so. That might be debatable. I guess it's all relative (laughter).
GREG SHARKO: Since 2004 the average age has been over 25 years plus, and the last two years it's been 26.2.
Q. How do you think we should develop the younger players so they can compete? Do you think this Quick Start Program is the way to go?
ANDY RODDICK: I'm not sure. That would probably be a better question for Patrick now that he's in charge of it.
For me, you know, I just want to see guys go to work. I think the mindset with the guys coming up, I'm a little bit ignorant about 11, 12, 13-year-olds, I'm far way removed from how to train that way, but the guys 15, 16, 17, 18 trying to make it, I think it has to be treated like a profession. Everybody else goes to work from 9 to 5, put in long hours. I don't think that should be any different for a tennis player.
GREG SHARKO: Any prediction on the Super Bowl, Andy?
ANDY RODDICK: My dad is a lifelong Packers fan, so I'm hoping they win.
Q. How does it feel to get back in the Davis Cup swing this year?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I'm excited about it now. I'll have a better feel for it once we actually get going. I guess in tennis the thing you look at is kind of what's next for us. Next for me is Memphis. That's kind of been monopolizing my thought process right now.
Like I said before, I'm excited about the hire of Jim Courier. I'm sure it will be great to get back into the ties.
Q. What do you think has been the biggest change since you first came on the tour to now? Players have become faster, hitting harder? What would you say?
ANDY RODDICK: Two things I think stick out to me. The movement is a lot better. I kind of alluded to that earlier. You have to be a really good athlete to play tennis now. Also the strings. You're starting to see the first generation of these polyester strings. The guys that grew up with it, they're able to take bigger swings. It's a little bit of an adjustment for guys that have not played with that stuff.
Everyone talks about racquets. The same racquets have been around for a while. I think it has a lot more to do with strings now.
Q. You participated in the Rally for Relief at the Australian Open as well as donated quite a bit of your own money in Brisbane. How important do you see it, giving back to the community?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I think it's huge. That's the one thing that's great about the global nature of tennis. We kind of get to see different areas. The Queensland floods down in Australia were tragic. I think they covered a space bigger than Germany and France combined. The one thing I've always been proud of as far as this tennis family, we come from a long line of guys and girls who have been willing to give back, starting with Billie Jean, Arthur Ashe, Agassi. The group now are all on the same page as far as if we can help, we'll try.
Q. Do you see yourself as a role model for younger players coming up through the juniors?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. That would be a question for them. I'm certainly available for any of the up-and-coming kind of high-level juniors, and I always have been. I'm certainly not going to force my opinions on anybody. But I'm willing to help. I certainly have always accepted the responsibility of kind of being I guess the figurehead of American tennis right now.
Q. Andy, if I have it right, when you took your dad to Lambeau, that must have been an incredible experience. You have the roar kind of like Ashe Stadium, but you have the ghosts of Horning, Taylor and Lombardi. A little bit like Wimbledon with the heritage there. Could you talk about your experience? Can you relate it at all to our sport?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, sure. I mean, I think you drew the correct parallel to Wimbledon. My dad was a lifelong Packers fans and he talked about the players like he knew them. My mom talked about it a year ago, that he had actually never been inside Lambeau. We went this year. I'm going to take him to the Super Bowl also. My favorite part was kind of seeing him take it all in. He had been such a fan since he was a little kid with all those players you just mentioned. I think Lombardi was his favorite person ever. It was kind of cool for me to be able to do that for him.
Q. You obviously played Novak a bunch of times the past couple of years. Generally some good results. Talk about Novak. What made him step up and prevail in Melbourne? Can he leapfrog Roger and Rafa and become a consistent No. 1?
ANDY RODDICK: I think you have to become No. 1 before you can become a consistent No. 1. We'll see.
It's funny to me how things, kind of the way they're presented in the media, change quickly. When I was in Australia, it was pretty much like Roger and Rafa existed and everyone else was kind of like a peon. Well, now it's like judge things on a three-month cycle as opposed to a three-week cycle.
He's certainly capable. I think he's proved it. I think the big thing with Novak over the last six months or so since he's been playing better, he looks a lot better, a lot more consistent. He was going through a little bit of a funk for a while on his serve. His forehand isn't going off. He's playing aggressively in tight moments.
Q. It's certainly true at the top there's Rafa and Roger. Are you saying he has the tools with his mix of defense and backhand returns to be No. 1? Do you think he could do it?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, 'can'. I don't really like to try to predict the future. I kind of take it for what it is.
He's certainly proven he can beat anybody and go the course of a tournament and win seven three-out-of-five-set matches. If you can do it once, you can do it again. He certainly knows what it takes now.
If he's at the top of his game like he was down there, certainly I don't think it would surprise anybody if he was able to do it again.
Q. Would you talk a little bit about your friend James for a minute. He's got a tough road in front of him if he's going to come back. He's at 171 now. Could you comment on that, if you know where he is mentally right now, what his goals are.
ANDY RODDICK: I'm certainly not going to speak to what his personal goals are. But the thing with James is he's always been a momentum player. Ranking at this point seems irrelevant to me. If he can get healthy and get right.
The whole thing with tennis is you need to do it a while. You need to do it so it becomes kind of habit. If he can kind of get into that groove, get some matches in, he can certainly turn around quickly. He's certainly capable.
Q. You talked earlier about the game getting more physical. In the past you said you can't teach 6'9". Would you talk a little bit about this trend of Cilic, Querrey, Del Potro, the tall guys. Is this a trend that's going to continue?
ANDY RODDICK: Sure. I don't think it's any different than any other sport. You know, you're seeing as people learn more about how to train, everything else, the athletes are getting bigger, stronger, faster. Everybody acts kind of surprised. If you compare Becker to Laver, he's bigger. Then if you compare Del Potro to Becker, Del Potro is bigger. I think it's been a pretty consistent trend from generation to generation.
Q. Does that mean that Michael Chang and Lleyton Hewitt are going to have a tougher time going forward?
ANDY RODDICK: Maybe. But guys like that, you know, I feel like a Michael Chang or a Lleyton Hewitt would find a way to be successful regardless. You can't really put a height requirement on the amount of heart that someone has.
Q. When we were talking about the average age of the game moving up toward 27, is that good for the overall kind of health and popularity of the game?
ANDY RODDICK: You know, it's easy to create an argument either way. Obviously the longer someone is around, it kind of breeds familiarity, which fans attach themselves to a lot of times. We need people to know who our players are. The longer they're around I think the better.
But I don't know if you're gonna see 17-year-olds come through anymore and win slams like Rafa did in '05 or Becker did or Lleyton did, for that matter. That seems like a tougher prospect.
Q. What in your mind has led to the recent Spanish tennis boom? Tennis seems to have taken a forefront.
ANDY RODDICK: Well, the forefront will always be soccer in pretty much every country except for the U.S. But, yeah, I mean, in the men's game especially. The women's game, they haven't really had many players.
I'm not sure. I know one thing: I'll use the example, if you have five or six really talented 15- or 16-year-olds, they practice together every day, one has a good result, the other four automatically think they can have a good result as well. I think winning becomes contagious. Kind of like a competitive jealousy is a good thing. I certainly think they might have that right now.
Q. There's a women's tournament in Memphis going on at the same time as the men's tournament. How good are the women compared to the men? If you took the serve out of the game, could a top woman take a game, a set or nothing at all off of a top man?
ANDY RODDICK: I'm going to break this down for you.
There is no way that I can answer this question and have it come across good, so it is really not even worth me commenting.
Q. Chris Evert used to say she couldn't take a set off of a top college player.
ANDY RODDICK: Well, there's your quote (laughter).
Q. You've worked with Jimmy Connors. I'm working on a story about records that will never be broken. When you look at Connors' record for singles titles of 109...
ANDY RODDICK: I think it speaks to greatness and longevity. He was able to do it for a long time. Again, I kind of alluded to the fact that it's become a lot more physical. I think it's tougher to stay out there or play weeks, as was necessary to come close.
Q. Roger is said to be the best player of all time. He hasn't won a major for a full year now.
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, geeze. You should put him to rest, I think.
Q. Can you talk about the X's and O's of his game at age 29, backhand, movement, intimidation factor.
ANDY RODDICK: What do you want?
Q. Is he less dominant?
ANDY RODDICK: Listen, they had him dead and buried after the Open. He won the Masters. There was a thing in '08 where you were asking me the same question.
Is he less dominant than the year he went 87-3? Probably. But that was arguably the best year in tennis of all times. If that's what the comparisons are going to be drawn to, he'll most likely come up short. But would it surprise me if he won three majors over the next two years? No, it wouldn't.
One thing I don't spend much time doing is worrying for Roger.
GREG SHARKO: Andy, thanks for your time again this afternoon. Enjoy your time in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and the game on Sunday.
ANDY RODDICK: Thank you.
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