So we’re halfway though the Australian Open and I have to admit something really, really obvious: I MISS ANDY RODDICK.
As most of you know, I’m a huge Andy Roddick fan. (I almost wrote that in past tense, but that felt so wrong and I immediately freaked out, so present tense it is.) I became a tennis fan because of him, so besides the French Open (which totally doesn’t count), I’ve never experienced a Grand Slam as a hardcore tennis fan when he wasn’t in the draw. I don’t like it.
If I’m being honest, things feel a little dull. Like I’m still waiting for the tournament to start. I’m used to holding my breath when the draw comes out, frazzling my way through every round, and tying every result in the men’s game back to Roddick — at least for the first few days! Usually, my viewing of the Grand Slam has some sort of center. Now all the matches seem to be floating around in space, disconnected, lost.
I sound over-dramatic, and that’s because I am. Fandom is at the core over-dramatic, irrational, and silly. You relate so much of your happiness and well-being to a player or team that you don’t even know. It’s innocent and it’s somewhat stupid and it’s nerve-wracking but it’s also a whole lot of fun. I miss it. I’m afraid that I’m never going to feel that passionate about a player again. There are plenty of other players that I like and cheer for, and I’ll watch tennis no matter what, but it’s not the same as it was with Roddick. And I’m coming to the terms with the fact that it might never be.
It’s probably better that way. I’m older now. I know more. I’ve been in press conferences and I’ve interviewed players one-on-one and I can see the big picture. I don’t want to idolize anyone. None of these players are perfect and none of them are villains. They all exist somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
But with Roddick it was never about perfection. Ever. It was about the flaws and the charisma and the good, the bad, and the ugly of the every-day. It was about the unnecessary losses and the dramatic wins and the tantrums and the respect and the hard work and the fun and OH GOD I’M GETTING EMO AGAIN. But let’s be real. Mostly it was about the pressers.
There have been a noticeable dearth of quotable quotes without Roddick. So while thinking about all of this I went back through the archives and found some of my favorite moments from Roddick’s Australian Open press conferences:
In 2011, after his 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-2 2nd round victory over Robin Haase, he was asked to evaluate Jim Courier as a post-match on-court interviewer.
Q. Is it something you can see yourself doing in 10 or whatever years’ time?
ANDY RODDICK: Coming up with witty responses after a match? I think that’s outside of my comfort zone.
In 2007, after his 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-4 win over Marc Gicquel, he knew he’d be facing the winner of the Dudi Sela-Marat Safin match in the third round.
Q. Sort of a joke, but how much are you rooting for Dudi?
ANDY RODDICK: I always root for Dudi. You can’t say “root” here. I always go for Dudi. Whatever. There’s your headline (smiling). Congrats.
Q. Obviously, would it be preferable to play Dudi?
ANDY RODDICK: Either way. I’m obviously — that’s just so funny (laughter). Sorry.
In 2005, he lost in the semifinal to Lleyton Hewitt. In his post-match presser he was asked why he left the court after the third set.
Q. You went off court at the end of the third set, you were gone for quite some time. Was there any problem there?
ANDY RODDICK: I was changing my clothes. Then the referee came and started getting on me about changing my clothes, so that was fun. You know, asked him if he wanted to tie one shoe for me, and I could tie the other one, we could just save time. I guess that wasn’t a good idea. But, no, I mean, I was just changing my clothes. I told the chair umpire I was going to.
Q. There’s been talk about the courts. How did you find them today out there?
ANDY RODDICK: They got lines, nets and everything. It’s good (smiling).
Q. What about the speed?
ANDY RODDICK: I’m fine with it. I’m never one to really notice too much. I guess that requires feel, and I don’t really have that in surplus (laughter).
In 2005 after a straightforward fourth round win 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-1 over Kohlschreiber, he talked to the press about his friends and gambling.
Q. With Davis Cup ending so late and this starting, are you going to get a chance to catch up on the break, in February, take some time off?
ANDY RODDICK: No, I don’t need it. I’m fine. If I take too much time off, I get bored so … Need something to entertain me. I’m like a three-year-old.
Q. How have you found Melbourne? Have you managed to do things on days off?
ANDY RODDICK: Yep. I was down in blackjack, now I’m up 600 bucks so I’m pretty excited about that. My dealer was Alfie, and he was being good to me the other night. Just been doing dinners and, you know, I like to get out and about on my off days. So I’ve been trying to donate money to the casino, but it hasn’t worked yet.
Q. Blackjack is your game of choice?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, so far. It’s really simple, so I understand it (laughing).
Q. Who is doing the best of all the guys?
ANDY RODDICK: James was, but him and Mardy didn’t do so well the other night. I’m in the positive right now. I don’t know. I think I might be. But that’s not saying a whole lot because I’m not up a whole lot, just enough to keep me playing.
Q. Can you preview the Bryans, Fish-Blake match.
ANDY RODDICK: Obviously, I mean, I think you have to give a nod to Bob and Mike just on the fact that they play a lot more doubles. Obviously, I think it’s a lot more meaningful a match probably. But that being said, Mardy and James have played well whenever they have played together. They had a couple wins last year before James got hurt. So that’s going to be a tight one, you know. Obviously, there’s some friendly competition there. They don’t want to, you know — it’s tough losing to your friends. You just don’t want to do it. So there could be some fireworks. Who knows?
Q. Any internal betting going on there?
ANDY RODDICK: Probably not. Not in a match of this magnitude. If it was at a smaller event and it was a first round, it could — it could happen. But I doubt it, you know. Us tennis players, we definitely don’t bet on matches so… (smiling). It’s okay. You guys can laugh. It’s not that serious.
Q. You lost the match 21-19 last year. It was a wonderful match.
ANDY RODDICK: I won that one.
Q. Sorry, you’re not the Moroccan fellow, are you?
ANDY RODDICK: I know we look alike. It’s tough to tell us apart. You’re a professional, Bud, you’re better than that, come on (laughter).
Q. James got a lot of questions about his fashion statement. You looking to perhaps convince Reebok to make a sleeveless shirt for you?
ANDY RODDICK: No, if I wore a sleeveless shirt, people would try to feed me after the match. If you got the guns, go for it. I got two breadsticks sticking out of my sleeve. I’ll stick with sleeves.
In 2009 after his 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 2-1 (ret.) win over Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, he joked with the British press.
Q. How much of what you’ve achieved here so far is to do with the self-control that you seem to be showing out there? Good or bad, it doesn’t seem to matter to you. Your reaction is very level and noncombustible.
ANDY RODDICK: Noncombustible? I love you English dudes.
And, of course, after he was destroyed by Roger Federer in yet another semifinal in 2007, he spoke for all of us.
Q. After a night like this, do you sleep well?
ANDY RODDICK: Do I sleep well?
ANDY RODDICK: It depends on how much I drink tonight.
But it wasn’t JUST the pressers I will miss. There were also some absolutely fabulous matches. Roddick made the semifinals of the Australian Open four times — in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009. He made two other quarterfinals and amassed a 38-11 career record in Melbourne. That is a awful lot of late-night frazzle/insanity/fun. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite memories:
I’m not sure if this look down memory lane makes things better or worse, but it is fun to reminisce. I think if there are any lessons to be learned here, it’s that we should appreciate what we have while we have it. Embrace the frazzle, crazy tennis fans!
We had it pretty good with Roddick. There are no other American men on the horizon with the ability to consistently be a threat — or at least a conversation piece — at Slams. And there is certainly not a player from any country that has his kind of (refreshingly) frank relationship with the fans and media.
I mean, it would suck if everyone had Roddick’s personality, but it’s certainly a presence that needs to be in the mix.
So. What’s your favorite Andy Roddick Australian Open memory? Have you had to deal with a favorite player retiring? If so, do you have any advice for me? Where do I go from here?