I can’t say I’m an Andy Roddick fan, because that would mean that I experience warm and fuzzy feelings towards him on a regular basis – and not just when he’s taking one of his classic beat downs vs. Roger Federer. But I do respect him as a tennis player who’s pushed himself to his greatest potential, and his style of play, with its obvious strengths and weaknesses, has made for some scintillating tennis when matched up with game opponents (I’m remembering some terrific matches against Gasquet, Murray and Fed at Wimbledon.) I also appreciate the way he speaks his mind in interviews unlike the ever-growing ranks of media trained athlete automatons. He’s like the Last of the Mohicans in the interview room. So while I sometimes bridle at his cocky attitude on court, I refuse to get on his case too much for showing off his true personality, warts and all.
The warts surfaced tonight, after Roddick needed four sets to get through Michael Russell in his first round night match. Did Andy somehow hear Brad Gilbert calling him a “poor man’s Andy Murray” after he lost the third set?
“I’m still trying to find myself.” Andy said to open his post match interview with ESPNs Chris Fowler (who’s a whipping boy around my house for all kinds of talking head inanity). “I’m not going to pretend I’m in championship form right now.”
Then Chris Fowler baited him with a “what does the media know, anyway?” kind of question. Is anyone surprised that Andy spoke his mind?
FOWLER: “You said you’re trying to find yourself and search. There’s a million people, a million voices. A lot of money. ESPN telling you how you should play. You shouldn’t do this. You should do that. Are you searching or is it clear to you?” (Yes, that’s Fowler’s version of jazz improv.)
RODDICK: “I’m convinced being a tennis analyst is the easiest job in the world. Whatever the person does, if it works you just say ‘that’s what works.’ If it doesn’t work you say ‘he should have done the other thing.’ So you know I’m pretty convinced I could be a tennis analyst when I’m done. . .it just doesn’t take much thought. If I’m grinding and I’m winning you guys are like ‘he’s reinvented himself,’ and if I’m playing like crap and pushing then it’s ‘he’s horrible and needs to hit the ball.’ Everyone’s an expert but I’m better than most have been. . .” Pauses for some Chris Fowler chorteling and then: “Hey you guys can take it too.”
Sure they can! Especially since Fowler was needling for just this kind of response! Anyone who’s spent one day in a tournament press room realizes pretty quick that most players worth their salt regard the media with a dirty dishwater mixture of indifference, fear and loathing. Everyone from Radwanska to Nadal feels exactly the same way as Roddick does – we’re just lucky that Roddick speaks the same smart ass language that we ESPN2 viewers do. As the game becomes increasingly international and polished, I enjoy that with this player, at least, absolutely nothing is lost in translation.
Andy did reportedly crack a smile this evening when asked about fellow Nebraskan Jack Sock, who he’ll play in the second round:
“I know he’s full of piss and vinegar, and he’s from Nebraska,” Roddick said in his press conference (via ESPN). “He sounds a little like an 18-year-old I knew once upon a time. I’m excited.”
Here’s the video of the Chris Fowler interview: