March 25, 2004
THE MODERATOR: Andy making his fifth consecutive appearance here at the NASDAQ-100 Open. He brings a 20-5 match record on the season into his opening-round match against Karol Beck. Questions?
Q. Was Tampa fun?
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, yeah. I was in and out. Yeah, it was all right. I mean, Jim was awarded a check for, what, 315 grand. That made it worthwhile for sure.
Q. How difficult was that to interrupt your preparation for the tournament?
ANDY RODDICK: It's all right. It's just one day. Luckily, I have a Saturday start here, so, you know, it wasn't that crucial. I think it was more, you know, maybe crucial for someone like James who actually had to play -- has to play, what, today. He's playing right now. For me, it wasn't that big of a deal, I don't think.
ANDY RODDICK: Little bit. It was a little bit of a monsoon. We got to hit the little ball around, so that's pretty much all we could ask for today.
Q. With Federer playing the way he is right now, do you feel he's unbeatable? What do you think about the way he's been playing?
ANDY RODDICK: No one's ever unbeatable. I can quasi-relate to the way he's playing because last summer I played pretty well. But he's definitely established himself as the best player in the world right now. There's not a whole lot of doubt about that. He's just lifted his game to another level. He's playing great ball right now.
Q. When you're a player, your concern is your game.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah.
Q. And how your game can get better. Can you step back for a second and try to look at the game through the eyes of the fan and the possibility of seeing Andy Roddick and Roger Federer battling each other over the next seven, eight years and how good that would be for tennis for you to create a rivalry?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, yeah. I mean, it's no secret that, you know, rivalries have always created the biggest excitement in tennis, especially you need familiar names playing on a weekly basis in big matches. That's obviously the best thing for tennis. But, you know, I hope to be there. I definitely have to hold up my side. It looks like he's doing a good job of holding up his side of that.
Q. How special is this place? You made a splash here for the first time.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, it's definitely a special place for me. I was here when they kind of inaugurated the place, I think it was back in '93. I've had a lot of memories here from my matches at this tournament. I won my first-ever pro match here. There are a lot of firsts for me at this place.
Q. You remember '93?
ANDY RODDICK: I do. We used to take the buses.
Q. Remember the weather in '93?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't (laughing).
Q. There was almost no play for the first five days.
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, I wasn't talking about the tournament. I think they had a USTA training camp. They brought a lot of kids down - am I right - they brought a bunch of kids down to hit on the courts for the first time and kind of show the facility. That's what I was talking about. They wouldn't give me a wildcard in '93, so...
Q. Where did you sit the first match you saw here? Upper deck someplace?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah. I was in, you know -- they have the regular stadium and then they have the bleachers put there for this tournament. I was in those bleachers. I've worked my way down (smiling).
Q. What do you think of the instant replay technology that's being used on TV? Do you think it should be used to change calls?
ANDY RODDICK: Uhm... I don't know. I mean, I think there are going to be mistakes on that. I think it would be great for tennis and for the spectacle of tennis if you were allowed to challenge two calls a match, similar to football. I think that would create kind of a cool variable. If they can prove it's 100 percent accurate and that the technology works and that it's completely legit and it's not just good for TV, then I think it would be great. Why not? It would add a little fire to it, for sure.
Q. Would it slow down the match?
ANDY RODDICK: Slow down the match? You'd check it, they'd check the Shot Spot, and you're on your way again. I don't think it would be more than a what, 25 -, 30-second delay.
Q. That's what they said about the NFL.
ANDY RODDICK: Well, there's a lot more people involved in an NFL game than there is in a tennis match, that's for sure.
Q. Can you ever envision yourself sort of like Andre going on 18 years coming here, coming to the same tournament year after year for so long?
ANDY RODDICK: No (laughing). No, man. 34, I'm going to be eating Cheetos and watching football.
Q. Does that say a lot about him?
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I have insane amounts of respect for him. It's amazing that he comes out here - not only that he comes out here and plays, he's gifted enough, he's a good enough player to come out here and compete. But the way he competes. I mean, he treats every match like it's Armageddon. He just comes out here and puts it all on the line every time. I mean, that's impressive to be able to get up for every match after such a long time. I mean, he's seen it all, he's done it all, he still loves it and he still competes every time. I think that's the coolest thing about it.
Q. Can you still learn something from watching him?
ANDY RODDICK: If I couldn't learn something from him, then I'd be a lot better than I am right now. That's for sure.
Q. Brad Gilbert helped Agassi become No. 1. Last year of course you became No. 1. In your dreams, did you think Brad Gilbert would make you ascend that quickly?
ANDY RODDICK: No. I wasn't expecting anything like that. I mean, I don't think anybody was. For me, it was a transitional period. Actually, I thought I might go down before I went up, to be honest. I wasn't real confident after the French last year. But that's the thing about sports. I mean, it just takes something to click. I mean, a lot of it is between the ears. When you get to this level, everybody can play; everybody can hit forehands and backhands. Everybody's played against the top players. So it becomes a lot more of a mental game than an actual physical one.
Q. How do you feel your game is since the Open?
ANDY RODDICK: I mean, the Open was my all-time pinnacle. I don't think I'm playing at that high of a level right now. But, you know, this year's been weird. I feel like I've been making progress, playing well, but losing a couple tight matches - down in Australia, a couple here and there. For me, it's just a matter of getting through those tough ones. I'm optimistic. I still feel good about where I'm at. I'm excited about the rest of the year.
Q. Has your relationship with Roger extended anywhere past just saying, "Good match," at the end of the match shaking hands at the net? Have you had a chance to sit down and BS or chat in the lounge or something?
ANDY RODDICK: A little earlier on. I mean, not really. We kind of both do our own thing. We have a great mutual respect. I like the way that he treats people. You know, I've noticed from afar. He doesn't act high-and-mighty at all. I definitely respect him. We've never gotten a chance to go out to dinner or anything like that. I think it's more of a respect right now.
Q. Is that something that really could never happen because you both want to keep a certain amount of distance between yourselves?
ANDY RODDICK: I have no qualms about that. I think he just has his groove, and I have my groove. I respect him as a person. Like I said, I have no ill will towards him. I just, you know -- we've just never really gotten that chance. I mean, if he came to me and said, "We should get together and go to dinner sometime," I'd say, "For sure." I'd have no problem. Yeah, I would have no problem with that at all.
Q. Agassi says Roger is a cut above everyone else right now. Do you share that?
ANDY RODDICK: Right now he is, yeah. But, you know, everybody's going to keep working harder. He's definitely the best player in the world right now. He's established himself as that. So the rest of us need to get our butts in gear and try to make the gap a little smaller.
Q. There are a lot of very good candidates for quarterfinal Davis Cup tie between Sweden and the US. Did anybody ask you where you'd like to play?
ANDY RODDICK: I always knew the candidates, but at the end of the day it's not really -- I'm not picking where our Davis Cup sites are. Obviously, the way it worked out, I'm thrilled. We could have gone to Australia next week as opposed to going 10 minutes away from where I grew up. So I wasn't completely disappointed about that.
Q. Andre talked about the closeness you all share on the Davis Cup team and about how they didn't have that in part because they were so competitive.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah.
Q. Do you think as you all become more competitive you won't be able to be as close?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't think so. I mean, you can never say "never." Who knows the circumstances. But I don't see it happening with us. You know, our ties go a lot deeper than just getting together for the Davis Cup weeks. A lot of us have history that goes back, you know, 10 years now, which is saying a lot because we're pretty young. I don't see it happening.
Q. For a player that's won a French Open and finals of the US Open, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Americans haven't really warmed up to him much. Do you have any idea why that is?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't. I'm not sure. He's obviously -- he's obviously a very deserving candidate for respect and for acknowledgment. I'm not too sure, you know. I don't know.
Q. Style of play? Demeanor on the court?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't think so, because every time you say "style of play," "demeanor on the court," you can find someone who they have embraced who has probably close to the same qualities. So I'm not sure, I don't know.
Q. After six matches with Roger, do you play each other the same way as you did before and it's just a matter of who executes better that day?
ANDY RODDICK: He probably does because he wins a lot more than I do (laughing).
Q. Is it a matter of who executes better that day or do you find yourself tweaking little things?
ANDY RODDICK: No, I mean, definitely. You know, I'm definitely always looking, watching his matches, trying to find out different ways where if I do get to play him next time what I might do or could do differently. I'm sure he's doing the same thing. As both of us improve and maybe cover weaknesses or cover gaps and change our games, there's always that kind of adjustment that has to be made.
Q. Do you find anything there?
ANDY RODDICK: No, he's being really annoying by covering up all his holes right now (smiling). No, I'm just joking. It's getting tougher and tougher for sure.
Q. Do you ever watch the US Open final?
ANDY RODDICK: I watched it once. I won't see it again.
Q. You don't want to see it again?
ANDY RODDICK: No. You know, it's -- it was amazing for me to watch it. I waited a couple weeks then I watched it. It was pretty intense. But, you know, I kind of want to move on to the next stage of my career, and I don't really want to dwell on it too much. I'm sure, you know, once kind of I've forgotten about it a little bit more, it will be great to go back to. My focus is on the road ahead, not the road that's already been taken.
Q. Were you startled - we all were - by how many critical points you won with the second serve and volley?
ANDY RODDICK: That's kind of what I felt I had to do. He had been hitting the ball so well from the baseline. He had beaten Hewitt and Agassi both just playing great baseline tennis. I'm probably not as good from the baseline as either one of the guys he had already beaten. I knew I had to at least put a different thought into his mind, at least give him a little bit of uncertainty as to what I was going to try and do.
Q. Prior Davis Cup years, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, for example, would practice together, stay in the same hotel together. Then you go to Pete, Andre, that group, they had a great respect for each other but it wasn't really close. Andre talked about that this group is very tight. How important is the team concept in making a difference in Davis Cup ties?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. You know, obviously, I think it's great because, you know, not only do we feel the responsibility to play for our country and we love doing that; we love to play for each other as well, you know. But at the end of the day, you want to win the Davis Cup. If it worked well and they got through it and won, then that's fantastic. But I think it will be a lot more special for us if we ever do get there, knowing we did it kind of with our buddies. That will be a fun time if we ever get there.
Q. If you're sitting on the sideline watching Mardy play, is it a different emotion than when you were a kid sitting in the stands rooting for whoever, who was your favorite player at the time?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, absolutely. It's weird to think -- I mean , we've talked about it before. It's weird thinking that, you know, we'd come from high school, we used to do all types of stupid stuff together, bum around. Now, you know, at Slovakia we sat down and talked, we're like, "We're playing 1 and 2 for the Davis Cup team right now." It was an extremely surreal conversation. On top of it being a teammate and wanting to win Davis Cup, you add all the history that we've kind of had together, and it makes me that much more nervous. I get a lot more nervous watching his matches than I ever would actually playing one of my own.
Q. Do you feel he took you off the hook in Bratislava?
ANDY RODDICK: Absolutely. He didn't get enough credit for that. Who knows where we would be playing right now if he didn't bail me out. I didn't play so hot my first match out there, and he kind of came in against a guy who he'd lost to at the Open, you know. Clay is probably not Mardy's favorite surface. He was down a set. He just stepped up. I mean, it's as simple as that. He pretty much saved the tie for us. We still might have gotten through it, but it would have been a lot hairier for us those second couple of days. That's for sure.
Q. How about a few words about Karol Beck?
ANDY RODDICK: Karol Beck, yeah, absolutely. I played him in Slovakia, and I played him actually at the Sunshine Cup back in 2000. Seems like we've been meeting up in team competitions. He's a solid player, you know. He comes up with great shots, but then sometimes he goes away for a couple shots. I think he dropshotted me about 46 times in that match, you know (laughing).
Q. Sunshine Cup?
ANDY RODDICK: No, when we were in Bratislava. So I'm not sure. Hanescu has been playing some really good tennis the last three or four weeks and he took him, what was it, 1 and 3. So I'm expecting good things. He's going to come out, he's going to have nothing to lose. He's definitely a dangerous floater.
Q. When you prepare for Davis Cup, are you able to bring Brad Gilbert along to help the whole team out, or is that against the rules?
ANDY RODDICK: No, no, no. We're allowed to now. Kind of when Patrick first came on, one of his big things was, you know, team unity. Maybe to promote that, he didn't let the coaches come for the first year so we'd all kind of have to rely on each other, all be in-house; we couldn't just go off and do separate dinners with our coaches and whatnot. But now I don't think that's a big issue for us, unity. So we're allowed to now.
Q. Do you know about Kuznetsov?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, he actually came to Florida. We trained together for about four days.
Q. What do you think?
ANDY RODDICK: Solid, he's a strong kid. He's kind of out of the Jim Courier mold a little bit. He's a strong kid, good racquethead speed. I was pretty impressed with him.
Q. After you won the US Open and also Montreal you and Brad were close and he had to go skydiving with you. Do you do a lot of recreational activities together?
ANDY RODDICK: "Recreational activities," yeah. Good, family fun - jump out of a plane (smiling). I mean, we hang out together all the time. Are you asking as far as...?
Q. I'm curious. Next week is a holiday, Easter for you and Passover for him. Will you get together for Sadre?
ANDY RODDICK: Not yet, we're saving our Sadre plans until after the tournament.
Q. Have you gone one-on-one in hoops with Doug Spreen yet?
ANDY RODDICK: Doug is like 5'8, 130. Although he can shoot the line, I definitely wouldn't win a free throw contest or a three-point shooting contest. But I'd like to think I could get physical.
Q. Could you post him up?
ANDY RODDICK: I'd feel very confident, though. If we're shooting, I - not so much at all. He's like Jimmy Chipowick in "Hoosiers." I would have posted him up, too.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.