January 25, 2004
THE MODERATOR: First question, please.
Q. You probably don't care about this as much, but you against Marat on Tuesday, Federer and Hewitt tomorrow. Pretty big-time stuff, isn't it?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I can't remember the last time in a Slam where you had this many big names and pretournament favorites still battling out this late in the second week. As a fan of tennis, it's pretty exciting. You know, I'm looking forward to getting out there, too.
Q. Any idea why it happened here and doesn't happen other places?
ANDY RODDICK: I think this is a pretty fair surface. You don't have, you know, quite so many -- I mean, it happens at The Open quite a lot. You know, but I think it's a truer surface. You don't see so many specialists, so many guys that are great on one surface but, you know, don't play well on grass or on clay. I think it's more likely to happen on a surface like this.
Q. It appears from the outside that you're playing great ball. Do you feel the same way inside?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like I'm getting better each match out there. And I felt really good from the baseline today. And I feel solid right now. So, yeah, it's all right.
Q. Can you explain that at all, not reverse psychology sort of thing, but you had a bit of a disappointment in Houston. Do you think that might have given you extra incentive to find your game here?
ANDY RODDICK: No. I was pretty wiped going into Houston. My goal was to get the No. 1 spot there. So wasn't too disappointing for me.
Q. Just in terms of not doing that well there, compensating by doing well here?
ANDY RODDICK: I love it when I get to the semis and it's a bad result. That's good.
Q. You're No. 1 in the world.
ANDY RODDICK: That's fine. It's a good thing. Not really. I haven't thought -- you know, I had pretty much forgotten that tournament once I was out of there. So, no, not really.
Q. Was this the best match you played so far with Sjeng Schalken?
ANDY RODDICK: I think so. From the back of the court, definitely. I thought I returned really well the other night against Taylor. But, you know, from the back of the court, I felt really good today. You know, I was doing what I wanted with the ball. So I was pleased.
Q. Do you think Sjeng played his best tennis?
ANDY RODDICK: Probably not. You know, he's played better against me before. But, you know, I put him under pressure from the first ball. So maybe that had something to do with it. And he started hitting the ball a lot better in the third set, you know, but it was a little late then.
Q. Can you tell me something about your game plan.
ANDY RODDICK: Against Sjeng?
ANDY RODDICK: No (laughter).
Q. There is no game plan?
ANDY RODDICK: I'm not going to tell you. I might have to play him again.
Q. Why not?
ANDY RODDICK: Why not? Because I'll keep it to myself so I can try to use it next time.
Q. But he's not a dangerous opponent for you.
ANDY RODDICK: That's not true. That's not true at all. You know, the three times I've played him recently, you know, I played him twice last summer when I was playing the best tennis I've ever played before, and today I played great. So, you know, I think it's a big coincidence that the times I've played him recently, you know, I've just been playing really well.
Q. What do you think about Marat's game? How do you look forward to that sort of encounter?
ANDY RODDICK: I think we have pretty similar games, you know, in the fact that we have big serves but we're not serve-and-volleyers. You know, we rely on big groundstrokes. You know, he's a little bit bigger than me, but, you know, it's pretty similar, I think.
Q. You seem pretty relaxed here. Are you feeling no pressure to succeed as the top seed? Or you're just internalizing that? Where are you at right now?
ANDY RODDICK: No, I mean, there's always pressure. But, you know, I'm just going out and I'm trying to take care of busy, you know, be mellow besides that. You know, there's not all the hoopla that there is, obviously, playing at home. You know, they're looking at a lot of other people, which is nice. I'm just trying to take care of my business and not worry about anything else.
Q. Who is the biggest threat for the title? Who do you personally think is the real danger?
ANDY RODDICK: You know, take your pick. There's a lot of guys left in the draw. But, you know, kind of like when Pete went on his, you know, big Wimbledon runs, I think it's Andre's title until someone takes it away from him.
Q. You had a pretty easy run here so far. Do you think you have been able to use the aura of No. 1 to your advantage as opposed to someone that is marking you on the back?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. That's not a question for me to answer. I'm just trying to go about things as normal. I'm not really -- I haven't put much thought into, you know, the seed, you know, anything like that. It's not like, you know, I finished No. 1 uber-convincingly last year or dominated or anything like that. So, you know, it's still up for grabs and I'm not really thinking about the ranking too much, to be honest.
Q. Do you think you can actually relax and be yourself a little more here than you can perhaps anywhere else, away from the hoopla of the event, just a little more laid back and be yourself?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't -- I don't know. You know, I'm not -- I haven't really thought about it. You know, that's been a question I've been getting a lot: "It's easier to relax here." But it's still a lot of pressure as far as a Grand Slam event goes. I think I'm just getting more used to playing Grand Slam matches. I did it a couple times last year where I went deep into tournaments, in the Grand Slams. And I think I'm just becoming more accustomed to it.
Q. How about in terms of notoriety, out at dinner, movies, are you finding people stopping you or is it less than at home?
ANDY RODDICK: It's about equal. You know, I'm not -- you know, I'm not able to hide much. But, you know, it's fine. You know, a lot of people here, they're great. They just want to say, "Hey, good job." You know, they're pretty mellow about it, which is nice.
Q. Have you seen much of Hewitt's or Philippoussis' matches?
ANDY RODDICK: I watched a couple of Mark's matches. I saw Lleyton play Nadal last night, which I thought was great tennis. You know, but just spotty here and there. I haven't really made too much of a point of it. You know, they've been playing during dinner time a lot of the times.
Q. Do you think they can go all the way?
ANDY RODDICK: I think a lot of people can go all the way, you know, here at this tournament. You know, like I said before, it's so heavy with the people still left, you know, there's, you know, seven, eight guys who have the possibility of winning here still. So that's exciting.
Q. I know you're playing him, but do you think it's a good thing for tennis that Marat is back in the second week of a Slam?
ANDY RODDICK: Absolutely. But I don't think if you asked the players it was ever in doubt that he would get back, you know, or get back fast. You know, he's got the game. His talent didn't go anywhere. He was injured. You know, it's as simple as that. He's still one of the top guys, despite his ranking.
Q. A couple of us were talking, we can't recall you and Marat playing, if you have, if you practiced with him.
ANDY RODDICK: I lost to Marat first round at LA in 2001. So, you know, but I think -- you know, a lot has changed since then. He beat me pretty good there. You know, but that was a long time ago.
Q. What do you remember about his game then?
ANDY RODDICK: He was just -- you know, like I said, we had similar games, but he was pretty much just better at everything then. I think it was 3-4, but I don't know if it was even that close.
Q. Does that seem like a lifetime ago to you?
ANDY RODDICK: It was a while ago. It was exciting, though, for me, because I was looking forward to it. Because after I made kind -- gotten my ranking up into the Top 30, it was my first tournament back in the States since that happened. And I got hooved, schooled, whatever you want to call it. It wasn't fun.
Q. What part of your game do you think you've most improved in the last couple months that you're the most happy about?
ANDY RODDICK: I think I'm returning a lot better. I'm making people work on their service games a lot harder. I think I'm actually winning more than I'm losing the last couple matches, which has been nice.
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