Professional tennis player
Born Andrew Stephen Roddick, August 30, 1982, in Omaha, NB; son of Jerry (a franchise owner) and Blanche (a teacher) Roddick.
Office —Andy Roddick Foundation, 2901 Clint Moore Rd. #109, Boca Raton, FL 33496.
Began playing tennis, c. 1986; played first amateur tournament, c. 1990; won Eddie Herr International, 1999; won Orange Bowl championship, 1999; ranked number–one junior player in the United States, 1999–2000; Australian Open junior men's singles winner, 2000; U.S. Open junior men's singles title, 2000; ranked number–one junior player in the world, 2000; turned professional, 2000; won first career professional men's singles title, Verizon Tennis Challenge, in Atlanta, GA, 2001; played Davis Cup tennis, 2001—; won first Grand Slam men's singles title, U.S. Open, 2003; set new world's record for fastest serve, 2004; won Queens Club, London, England, 2004.
Seen as one of the best young tennis players produced by the United States in the early 2000s, Andy Roddick is known for his big serve, passionate play, and fun personality. After turning professional in 2000, Roddick won a number of men's singles tournaments, though he did not win his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open until 2003. Roddick sometimes struggled with the demands of the
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Roddick was the youngest of three sons born to Jerry and Blanche Roddick. Jerry Roddick was a private investor who owned a number of Jiffy Lube franchises, while his mother worked as a schoolteacher. Roddick lived in Nebraska until he was four years old, when the family moved to Austin, Texas. Though he left Nebraska behind, he remained a life–long, die–hard fan of the University of Nebraska's football team.
Around the time of the move to Austin, Roddick began learning to play tennis. Blanche Roddick played tennis for fun, and she encouraged each of her sons to play the sport. However, Roddick's oldest brother, Lawrence, later became a springboard diver, then worked as a chiropractor in San Antonio, Texas. His middle brother, John, played tennis at the University of Georgia, where he was a three–time All American and a highly ranked junior player. A back injury ended his career, and he later ran a tennis academy in San Antonio.
While still living in Austin, Roddick took group lessons and began competing in local amateur tournaments at the age of eight. He was very small for his age, which forced his game to emphasize the serve and using his speed to win from the baseline. Roddick was soon very interested in the sport, playing pretend games in the garage against the best players in tennis. When he was nine years old, his birthday present was a trip to watch the U.S. Open.
As a child, Roddick did not particularly stand out as a player, but he was confident of his tennis skills. In the early 1990s, he convinced Reebok to sign him for their junior program. Reebok's faith in the young player paid off. He remained signed to the company after he turned professional, through the early 2000s.
When Roddick was ten years old, he and his family moved to Boca Raton, Florida, a hot spot for tennis development. In this environment, Roddick began to develop into a solid tennis player himself. In 1997, Roddick discovered a key to his playing career. He figured out that he had a massive, hard serve when he was playing around and did not do the standard serving motion. He soon joined the junior tennis circuit, where he did very well.
While playing junior tournaments and rising in the junior ranks, Roddick continued to attend Boca Prep Academy. Coached by Tarik Benhabiles, he worked on his game every afternoon after school. However, tennis was not his only focus—he also played high school basketball. However, tennis was where he shone and the sport to which he was dedicated. By the time he was 17 years old, Roddick had a serve of 125 m.p.h. Of his young student, Benhabiles told L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, "Andy's work ethic and his intensity level are tremendous for a kid his age. I tell him not to worry about the future, because if his dedication stays the same, there's no limit."
Roddick won a number of junior titles in 1999 and 2000, including the Eddie Herr International and Orange Bowl championship in 1999, and the Australian Open and U.S. Open Juniors title in 2000. He was regarded as one of the best young players in the world. At one point, Roddick was ranked number one among junior players in the world in 2000.
This success left Roddick with two choices: He could attend college as his brother, John, had and play college tennis, or turn professional. Roddick did not even consider going to college—he turned professional even before he completed high school in 2000, but only when his coach believed he was ready. One of his first tournaments he competed in as a professional was the 2000 U.S. Open, where he lost in the first round.
In 2001, Roddick began to live up to his reputation as a great young American tennis player. He beat one of the best players in the world, Pete Sampras, at a match in March of 2001. At that spring's French Open, Roddick played well. One match, against Michael Chang, gave the world a glimpse of how tough he could be. Despite suffering from debilitating cramps in the fifth set, he beat Chang. Roddick was later eliminated from the tournament.
Roddick won his first professional men's singles title in 2001, the Verizon Tennis Challenge. His victory marked the first time an American teenage player won an ATP tournament since 1992. He also won the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, and the Legg Mason tournament. By June of 2001, Roddick was ranked number 21 in the world, and was in the top 20 by the time of the U.S. Open. At the U.S. Open, Roddick reached the quarterfinals before losing, but was seen as a brat after yelling at the umpire and arguing a bad line call.
By the time Roddick was succeeding as a tennis player, he stood 6'2" and weighed about 180 lbs. His serve was up to 140 m.p.h. While he was no longer a small boy on the court, he also had adult concerns that reflected his outgoing personality and generous nature. In 2001, he started the Andy Roddick Foundation to help children in their educational and economic lives.
Roddick played tennis with passion and great ability to focus. A number of commentators noted how different he really was. Patrick McEnroe, his Davis Cup coach and a former professional player in his own right, told Mark Starr of Newsweek, "Andy plays with enthusiasm. He gets excited, he gets into it, he gets ticked off. People want to see the kind of passion he brings to the game." Sports marketing expert Dean Bonham commented to Sports Illustrated 's Wertheim, "He's a breath of fresh air, because there's no pretense about him. He makes no attempt to fit into a tennis–player mold."
Roddick's success and media attention hurt his game in 2002. He struggled more that year, and was unable to live up to the hype of being "the next great thing" in tennis. While he still won at least two singles titles in ATP tournaments, he was unable to break though at Grand Slam tournaments. Roddick was still able to finish in the top ten rankings for the year. The beginning of 2003 was also rough. While Roddick was able to make the semi–finals at the Australian Open, he lost in the first round of the 2003 French Open. This compelled Roddick to make a coaching change.
In June of 2003, shortly before the beginning of the Wimbledon tournament, Roddick fired Benhabiles and hired Brad Gilbert. One of the first changes that Gilbert made was adding more self–confidence to the already–competitive, speedy Roddick. Gilbert told Roddick that he had to believe he could win; he also helped Roddick work on his backhand and his play at the net, the weakest parts of his game. The short–term results were impressive. Roddick went on to win four events in the summer of 2003.
As time went on, Gilbert worked on other aspects of Roddick's game. He helped Roddick learn to adjust his game in matches and not just rely on his power to win. He also believed Roddick could improve in all areas of his game, especially his serve return and making his hard serve even harder. Roddick also began working on improving his conditioning. While Gilbert reformed Roddick's approach on the court, Roddick remained the fun–loving prankster off the court. These changes led to Roddick's biggest career victory to date.
In September of 2003, Roddick finally broke through in Grand Slam tournaments. He won his first U.S. Open, defeating Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero in three straight sets. In addition to boosting Roddick's confidence, it also led to Roddick being ranked number two in the world. Roddick found the victory hard to believe, and went into the stands to find his coach and his parents. He told Nick Pitt of the Australian, "Before I won the U.S. title, there had been a lot of hype rather than substance. I got a lot of it before it was deserved, so the win was almost like validation for me, proving that maybe I was there."
Although he could have dropped out after this big win, Roddick remained committed to playing in the on–going Davis Cup tournament that pitted different countries against each other. As he had since 2001, Roddick represented the United States in the Davis Cup play. In September of 2003, Roddick lost one of his two matches against Slovakia, though his team went on to win the tournament. Roddick told Bud Collins of the Los Angeles Times, "Davis Cup means a lot to me. Nothing will interfere. If I feel I need rest, some time off, I'll cut down on other tournaments, but not Davis Cup."
Roddick continued to play well in late 2003 and early 2004. He won 20 straight professional matches between August and October of 2003, when he lost in the third round of the Madrid Masters. Though injuries to his knee and hamstring forced him to pull out of several tournaments, he still played well in the ones he entered. He became the number–one ranked player in the world in November of 2003, a position he retained until February of 2004. On December 22, 2003, he was named male ITF World Champion.
Roddick lost the number–one ranking after losing at the Qatar Open in January of 2004, and losing in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open later that same month. He went into Open expecting to play well, if not win. Despite these setbacks, Roddick soon set a world's record for fastest serve. In June of 2003, he had tied the world's record of 149 m.p.h. held by Greg Rusedski. In February of 2004, Roddick broke the record in a Davis Cup match against Stefan Koubeck of Austria with a serve of 150 m.p.h.
Although he was an established tennis player with at least 12 singles titles to his name and five million dollars in winnings, Roddick continued to be a different kind of tennis player. In November of 2003, he hosted an episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live, a sketch comedy program. He also had a guest appearance on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. In 2004, Roddick was to be the subject of a reality series, The Tour, which followed him on the ATP tour from May to September. His then-girlfriend, pop singer Mandy Moore, declined to be featured in the television program. Roddick continued his winning ways by defeating Sebastien Grosjean at the June 13, 2004, Queens Club tournament in London, England. He went on to win a second straight RCA Championships title on July 25 of that year.
Of his life in the spotlight, Roddick told Evan Smith of Texas Monthly, "I can't take for granted the life that tennis has allowed me to live. Truth is, I think there are loads of kids my age who'd love to switch places with me, so I've got nothing to complain about. Of course, you always wonder what it's like to hit a home run in a playoff game or something like that, but I have no regrets." He went on to win a second straight RCA Championships title on July 25 of that year.
Australian, January 12, 2004, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2003, p. D1; September 22, 2003, p. D13; October 17, 2003, p. D3; January 8, 2004, p. D2; January 28, 2004, p. D1.
Newsweek, August 24, 2001.
People, June 4, 2001, p. 74; December 31, 2001, p. 132; December 1, 2003, p. 105.
San Francisco Chronicle, January 18, 2004, p. B1.
Sports Illustrated, February 21, 2000, p. R6; September 15, 2003, p. 56; November 10, 2003, p. 72.
Sunday Telegraph Magazine (Sydney, Australia), January 4, 2004, p. 1.
Texas Monthly, January 2004, p. 46.
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— A. Petruso