August 26, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Andy.
Q. How do you feel?
ANDY RODDICK: As far as...?
Q. Ready for the tournament?
ANDY RODDICK: I am ready for the tournament. I feel like the last month or so I've been playing really good stuff. And especially last week in Cincinnati after the first round, you know, kind of ran through it there a little bit.
So I'm excited. I'm really excited to be back here in New York.
Q. It's been a long year for you already. Do you need to do well here to feel like, I had a good year?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know if I can feel like that, to be honest. I mean, it's been seven months of not playing my best stuff. But I'm -- I said last week in Cincy, I'm not really looking at it as a full year right now. It's like, okay, after Wimbledon I'm kind of looking at it as post Wimbledon, you know. That part of the year is gone. I can't really do much about it at this point.
But going forward, I feel like I'm doing the right thing. I'm playing well. I'm hitting the ball well. I'm excited to get up and play every day, and that's a feeling that's been missing a little bit. So, you know, I'm ready to go here.
Q. Why do you say that feeling was missing? Why do you think it was missing?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. 'Cause I was frustrated with the way I was playing. So you go there, there's a big difference between going to the courts hoping you're going to hit the ball well and knowing you're going to hit the ball well. In the last month or so I've gone to the courts knowing that I'm going to play well, it's just a matter of if my opponent's going to be playing better. That's a lot better feeling, a lot easier feeling to wake up with than kind of uncertainty.
Q. Is there something specific you can point to that made that change?
ANDY RODDICK: You know, I don't know. I mean, obviously, I don't think Jimmy's role plays a small part in it. That's kind of been reinvigorating. His passion for the game is contagious. You know, that's exciting.
I don't know. Just kind of like a fresh start, you know. It's the first -- kind of the first time in my career I've been (indiscernible) on a little bit, so it's a new position. I'm definitely hungry to turn it around.
Q. Having Jimmy as your coach, does that make you hungrier?
ANDY RODDICK: I think it helps. I know what I'm not allowed to get away with it. I have to go out there and I have to bust it every day. That's not good; that's expected in his eyes. Just his knowledge for the game. You know, it's just clicked. I'm excited about it.
Q. What's been the most drastic change?
ANDY RODDICK: A lot. I've been playing a lot more aggressively. Like I said, it's just fun. It's a lot of fun right now. That's, you know -- I don't think you can overemphasize how important that is.
Q. What parallels do you see between the showmanship that Jimmy demonstrated during his playing career and the fact that he had, you know, a lot of success well into his 30s, and with Andre who's stepping away obviously in this tournament?
ANDY RODDICK: It's probably actually pretty similar. Uhm, you know, they were both huge crossover stars - probably bigger than tennis itself. Obviously, they both stood the test of time. You know, they could both hold a crowd in the palm of their hands. So, you know, I think there are some parallels.
Q. Can you talk about how different your approach is coming in this year from the first time you played this as a pro player? I mean, maturity, your game...
ANDY RODDICK: I think the first time I played this as a pro, I just finished watching the "Wiggles" and then went out and played my match.
But to be honest with you, I'd love to sit here and tell you I recall what I was feeling before my first singles match here. I mean, I played doubles in '99, and I remember walking out thinking that I was the biggest deal ever experienced out on Court 13.
So it's hard to think back and realize this is my eighth time playing. I don't know where it's gone, but, you know, you still get that excitement and that buzz every time you cruise in here.
Q. Can you recall a time working with Jimmy where you sort of had a wild moment and said, This is Jimmy Connors, This is one of the great, elite champions of all time, in your interactions with him?
ANDY RODDICK: I'd say I think a better question would be is there a time when I'm not cognizant of that or I'm not aware of that. You know, I'm pretty aware at all times. And, you know, he'll hit for 20 minutes after each practice, and every day after I find myself just sitting there and watching. I'm a huge fan. I try not to be too much of a dork around him.
Q. You referenced his knowledge of the game. Can you speak about that. Has he gone into stroke specific, or more his game?
ANDY RODDICK: Both. You know, I'm gonna be extremely vague. Apologies for that.
But, you know, from the first, you know, 30 seconds that we worked together on our little trial period of Wimbledon, I'd hit a couple balls, he'd stop practice, cruised up. You know, he definitely wasn't shy with his ideas, and that was appreciated.
Q. Are you surprised that James has leap-frogged you?
ANDY RODDICK: Not really. You know, I think there's a big difference, 'cause if you would have told me James was 5 in the world at the beginning of the year, it wouldn't have surprised me. But if you would have told me I was, you know, whatever I am now - I don't even know - but whatever I am, then I would have been a little disappointed in that. So, you know, I'm not surprised with where James is right now.
Q. What brings you back to Arthur Ashe Kids' Day every year?
ANDY RODDICK: Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, first and foremost, the cause is amazing. Selfishly, I love it. It's fun mixing the music and the tennis. I think it's a great way to honor someone while kicking off the US Open every year. I think it's just a great, great event.
Q. Do you think sometimes at this point maybe the Arthur Ashe Day is kind of lost with so much that's going on in the day?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't think so. I mean, I think everybody who is here is well aware, and even the kids that come, I'm sure they have someone with them who can explain or at least try to explain Arthur's legacy and why they're actually here watching this cool show and what the cause for it is. I think this day does a lot more to promote his legacy as opposed to, you know, losing it.
Q. You were saying Jimmy was on a short list of coaches. Can you say how long that list was? Three, four?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, probably about that.
ANDY RODDICK: Something like that, yeah.
Q. Your birthday is coming up. Any plans?
ANDY RODDICK: Not to lose on my birthday this year. Besides that, I'm not really too concerned about it.
Q. How do you feel about instant replay being a part of a Grand Slam?
ANDY RODDICK: I think it's great. My opinion is no different than instant replay in Cincinnati or in Indianapolis. I think it's great for a lot of reasons. Everybody here has seen matches that have been turned one way or another on human error; that's only natural. It happens. But if you can try and do something to take that out of it, then, you know, why not?
And, I think it adds a great dimension for the fans. I can't wait for the New Yorkers to start screaming, Challenge it, and getting on it and the umpires when they're wrong and when we're wrong. I think it adds a whole other dimension to watching tennis. And even on TV, you know, that little three or four seconds when the ball's in the air on the screen, I think it's cool. I think it's a good change.
Q. How do you think you'll do this year with not quite as much media hype or campaign as there has been around you in past years?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. I've done well here with all that, with the zoo before, and I've not done well with the zoo before. I almost remove that from the equation. I don't know if that affects what goes on inside the lines, but, you know, it's obviously not too dead (referring to the people in the interview room).
But, you know, I'm kind of enjoying the role. Obviously, there's a lot more important stories here with Andre, the Fed-Nadal. I'm somewhere down the line, which I don't mind at all.
Q. What did you learn from last year and your early exit?
ANDY RODDICK: I learned that I didn't like it very much. Uhm, I don't know. I just laid an egg, to be honest. I played a bad match. I'd been playing well. I won the US Open Series coming in, so preparation I don't think was an issue. It was a bad match. I actually played well afterwards again in Davis Cup and won a tournament, you know, so it was just a bad time for a really bad match, you know.
But I think you do draw from that experience, and I definitely want to do everything in my power to avoid that again.
Q. What was Andre's signature on the court? When you would play him at the height of his game, what is it that you knew you were going to have to deal with most?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, there was a lot. You know, there is obviously -- I think when he was playing his best tennis, people knew they were going to have to pay the price physically if you were gonna win a match. He's controlling the middle of the court. He's inside the court. He's the one kind of bullying you around in baseline points. And, you know, you add in the way he competes, the way he was moving, the way...
There's just so many factors that you need to deal with there.
Q. As someone who, as you say, you don't know where you're ranked now, you're certainly not downward where he was when he kind of fell off the tour at one point, but can you look at what he did to come from where he was all the way back to No. 1 and think that was an astonishing thing?
ANDY RODDICK: Absolutely, absolutely. You know, I think he dropped to 141, and I remember seeing pictures of him, you know, changing his own scorecards at a Las Vegas challenger, where a lot of people might have said, Okay, well, I'm okay, I can just kind of move along and live a very comfortable existence and be fine, you know. I think it takes a special person to get back. He actually was better than he was before.
So I'm sure that's inspiring to a lot of players.
Q. Where do you think he fits in in the history of the game?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, there's -- that's a -- I'm gonna ask you to be more specific about that question because as --
Q. Where he fits.
ANDY RODDICK: That's fine. I'm not talking about that. There's forehands and backhands and Grand Slams won and then there's the -- and that's fine. He's obviously one of the best ever there. I think what makes him so different is his crossover appeal. He was able to take tennis to a totally different demographic, create interest in tennis at all times.
And then what he's done off the court, I think that will be a bigger legacy, what he's done with his children's school and that whole deal and kind of being the leader as far as those causes go. I don't think we've seen his greatest accomplishment yet, and that's a big statement considering what he's accomplished already.
Q. When you think about Andre's retirement and the other Americans, male and female that are older, not here, how do you think people will look back at the 2006 Open historically?
ANDY RODDICK: I think we're going to have to wait for the tournament to be played before we realize how we're going to look back on it.
Q. I'm talking about generationally, Andre retiring.
ANDY RODDICK: You're talking about because he's like the last kind of...?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. I don't know. You know, obviously, the story from the 2006 US Open regardless of what happens is going to be Andre's last tournament. I hope that it's a celebration of his career, for this whole event, and that's what it should be.
Obviously, that's the biggest story. It should be the biggest story. He's earned that right. You know, I think that will dominate the headlines, and I think it should dominate the headlines.
Q. You're one of the big servers on the tour, in the sport. Is he the best at handling your serve?
ANDY RODDICK: Definitely one of 'em. Definitely one of 'em. He was an amazing returner just 'cause he was able to take full cuts. There's different kinds of returners. Roger is great at putting the ball back in the court and starting a point there. Andre was probably unparalleled as far as taking huge swings. He was the first one to take full cuts at returns. I think he started changing the dynamic of the game.
Q. Was it his eyes, he could pick up the ball?
ANDY RODDICK: Probably. You're gonna have to ask him that. I wish he would share with us all (smiling).
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