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August 27, 2015

James Blake

Andy Roddick


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. James, when we talked to Andy on the phone, he said there was no friendly wager last year. What about this year?
ANDY RODDICK: I also said I was open to proposals.
JAMES BLAKE: Now that we're actually friends... I don't know if there's any friendly. There might be a wager, I don't know about friendly.
We haven't thought of anything yet. We should come up with something. Hopefully not too embarrassing for the loser because I think Andy has been probably playing a little more than me. I'll try to under‑sell myself so maybe I could be the underdog and get some crowd support.
No, we'll probably come up with something.
ANDY RODDICK: I think crowd support is going to be really tough for you here (smiling).

Q. Do you enjoy doing this because it's a way of kind of interacting with the fans as well as keeping active?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I had fun last year. It was my first time in New Haven obviously. But playing the Open, I used to play a pretty heavy summer schedule. I felt like I needed that week to pump the brakes. There's a lot of sponsor activities, obligations going into the US Open.
I always remember watching James play here in the night sessions, his buddies, 9,000, 10,000 of his closest friends.
When he called me last year and asked me if I'd be interested in coming, I said, Of course, I'd love it.
It's fun being here with James. We go and do the sponsor meet and greets. It's normally you're meeting strangers, and James knows everyone by their first name. It's fun for me to see that relationship firsthand.
When Anne was nice enough to invite me back this year, it was a no‑brainer for me because I had so much fun last year.

Q. Is there any pressure to put on a show rather than play competitive tennis?
JAMES BLAKE: We retired for a reason. We're not out there playing exactly the same we did in '03, '04, '05, everything like that. But hopefully in these kind of events we can show a little more of our personality, too, which luckily people seem to have fun when we show a little more of our fun side, having a good time out there.
We're athletes. We're always entertainers. But we were doing it with such clear focus when we were on tour. Now we can show that we also have personalities. We can crack jokes, we can have a good time and still play pretty darn good tennis. The difference of the guys in the top 10 and top 100 is pretty small. That's where that focus comes in.
Luckily for American tennis, he had that as good as anyone in the world. I was maybe a little below. But what we had then, now we can have some fun and show that.
There is an element of putting on a show. It's not uncomfortable for me. I won't speak for him. It's showing our personalities, having a little more fun, not putting as much pressure and stress on the outcome.
ANDY RODDICK: I think it is a little more interactive. Someone says something from the crowd that was funny, it's okay to react now. From the time you're little, kind of you're taught this intense focus. Playing in matches like this is like a breath of fresh air.
James can attest on game days in my career, I was miserable. Really didn't want to talk too much. So now it's almost brought innocence back to tennis for me, to be able to come here and still play and still have fun.
You kind of have moments of playing good points. They get fewer, but I really, really enjoy being able to participate in nights like tonight and kind of relax a little bit and try to play some good tennis at the same time.

Q. The intensity when you play, there's a line you don't cross when competing. I wanted to ask about Nick Kyrgios. How did you know how to not cross that line? You probably think he did cross the line.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, well, I know I got a lot closer to that line a lot more often than James did.
I think it's probably a respect issue with your opponent. If I did something, and I broke my racquet, you know, whether it's the officials, that's kind of part of their job, is to deal with us cranky athletes, you know, I think there had to be an underlying measure of respect. It's one that I probably went over the line during some matches. But I was also one of the first people to say after the fact I messed up, I probably went too far, if I felt that way.
I'm okay with someone crossing the line if you feel like they're learning and they own it after the fact. But I think that was completely over the line. It's cute for so long. But I don't know that there's ever a time or place to get personal with your opponent.
Listen, emotions run high in tennis. You can say things to each other. I think there is a certain line, and certainly personal life, family, those things, no matter how much the other person agitates you, no matter how much you are in the moment, those are always off limits.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I think he clearly went over the line. Like Andy said, I think it's important that he learns from it. I think there have been a lot of young players out here, seemingly every generation's got some bad boys, young whipper‑snappers, whatever you want to call it. I can't believe I'm that old that I just used that word (laughter). You got the young punk sort of.
He's definitely in that mold right now. You hope he turns into a mature veteran or someone that can harness it. Like Andy said, you throw your racquet or something as opposed to crossing the line into someone's personal life.
I hope he apologized. I think that's something that should happen in the locker room and hopefully veterans are there to say, Get your head on straight and play the game the right way.
He's got a ton the talent. I think the ATP handled it great with not suspending him immediately but giving him another chance. If he does anything else, he's on thin ice.
I do hope he learns and is able to harness that. Like I said, stuff is said in the heat of battle, but personal life should be off limits.
I hated the fact that there were sort of other innocent bystanders when you're bringing other people into it that weren't even on the court there. That's unfortunate that that happened.

Q. Last year you played in front of a very nice crowd here. Seems like when you watch the PowerShares Series, there's a good crowd. Are you surprised how well it's been received by the fans?
JAMES BLAKE: I'm generally surprised when people want to see me. Luckily I got good friends that pack the house.
I think here for me, being at home, it helps. We played a few of Andy's sort of hometowns or adopted hometowns for PowerShares. I love that feeling. He talked about when I'm here. He knows a lot of people when we go to Omaha. He knows a lot of people when we go to Austin. It's fun to see that. That's stuff we missed out on tour.
We spoke earlier, you're so focused on winning, so focused on your job. Now we can have fun. If I see someone I know, I can stop and talk for five minutes. If I was on tour, my coach would say, No, we got to get to the next thing, you got to worry about training.
I think that resonates with a lot of fans and they want to come back and they want to see people that are having fun and they want to see us, see those few and far between points that are good, where we can still show a few flashes of brilliance. Hopefully we'll have a few more of those tonight.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I'm excited to play a couple of sets in a row tonight. But PowerShares events we do play during the year, I think the format's great, too. It's in and out, it's quick, it's exciting. There's no ad. There's always some sort of pressure element to it. You get to see four people you may have liked or may not have liked, but four really former great players. Three sets guaranteed.
Tennis is tough. The scheduling of it is tough also. As I'm sure Anne will tell you, nothing goes according to plan. It's harder to schedule three or four three‑out‑of‑five‑set matches and get it closer to the time schedule you want. I think PowerShares has the benefit of the start time and end time and the basic length of run of show. I think that's been a proven model.
I don't know how easy it is to integrate into professional tennis because there's no script. That's what makes sports great. As far as PowerShares, I think they've done great with the format.

Q. Will you ever play a match against each other in the backyard? Hanging out, drinking iced tea, beer, let's go hit some balls?
JAMES BLAKE: We practiced together all the time. So we did that. Nowadays if we're in the same city, we definitely go out and hit.
I think both can attest, I don't want to speak for him, we're both pretty competitive. Going out and hitting balls is not as much fun for us. We've done that millions of times. We'd probably start playing, probably start getting competitive. Yeah, that would happen.
To quote Andy, I think when we sat down on a changeover he said, I just really hate losing. I don't care what it is. Don't you feel the same?
Yes, I kind of do. You put it perfectly.
We both hate losing. We'd probably both go out and have some fun and one of us would have less fun.

Q. Andy, you gained widespread acclaim‑‑
ANDY RODDICK: I thought you were going to say I gained weight (laughter).

Q. With all the experience you have talking about other sports on FOX, how comfortable are you watching the matches and broadcasting, criticizing people in tennis, along those lines?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, for me, even when I started at FOX, was covering other sports, which was a great training ground for me, kind of very quick live television about sports that you didn't play, it teaches you very quickly. It was a great experience for me.
As far as criticisms, it's very simple for me: If the person was sitting across from me and I could look them in the eye and tell them what I thought, then I'll say it on air. I have no issue with that.
There's no chance of me ever delving into a personal opinion or sharing, you know, a story that doesn't have a lot of relevance. It's not even so much pretending like it's easy. I hate it when analysts do that, you know. I don't think I'll ever do that.
But, you know, it's more along the lines of if this person could do something different, maybe this is what I'd want them to try. If I was coaching them, this is what I would want them to do in a given matchup.
For me it wasn't really that hard at all. After doing FOX and hosting segments, all that stuff, going back to something that you know very well was a pretty easy transition for me.

Q. You said it was your first time ever to New Haven last year. When you've never been to a city before, do you come early? Have you been to Pepe's Pizza, the museum or anything like that?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I had a conversation with my wife a couple days ago. She's very pregnant. I said I'm going to go to New Haven a couple days early to go to Pepe's Pizza. She was very understanding (smiling).
You try to, but it doesn't always work out as planned. I will say you get a feel for a place very quickly. Walking around this tournament last year, how welcoming it was, how well it's run, that's apparent whether you're here for three days or 30 minutes. You get a feel for a place very quickly.
As evidenced by us standing here, sitting in front of you this year, it was a testament to the time I had last year. It was great.

Q. Are there places that are great to maybe humanize tennis is going too far, but you're very intense and focused on tour, but to let people see it's a fun game?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah. I mean, I think the simplest element, even as I touched on earlier, it's kind of brought the innocence back to tennis for me. When you're on tour and you're practicing, you're so focused on trying to improve where you're not doing well or getting to a certain point. Sometimes you forget. You can be 4 in the world, have a terrible day. God, what am I doing wrong? You never really realize that you're 4 in the world when you're in the middle of it.
It's a good thing. So to step back and kind of have a little bit of perspective... Frankly when you're on tour like that, you're never really around people that aren't great, great, great players. So now to take a step back, to use your words, experience the fun element, experience all different sides of tennis, see what goes on behind the curtain as far as corporate sponsors, being able to engage with them, add value in that capacity, it's been nice to see. It's been refreshing.

Q. From a fan perspective, too.
ANDY RODDICK: Fan perspective is great. One, you have to be able to play good tennis still. But absolutely, you know, if someone wants to come say something, heckle, do whatever, I've always been all for that in tennis. If you pay the money, as long as you respect the sanctity of when a point is going on, in between points, you know, you get too personal you're probably get kicked out like most sporting events, but I'm happy with you taking it as far up to that line as you want to. I think that's your right as a fan of a sport.
I've always certainly encouraged people to kind of get into it. And now we have the opportunity for rebuttal, which makes it fun. It's a great way to add value to an event like this.
JAMES BLAKE: If you liked that, you should have come here in the height of the J Block. They would have taken it up to the line.
ANDY RODDICK: I would have had something for them.
JAMES BLAKE: Sure you would have.

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