Beyond what Andy Roddick brought to the tennis court, what we miss more about him is his willingness to tell it the way it is – or at least the way he thinks it is.
Roddick is almost as smart as he thinks he is, and too sarcastic, and unwilling to suffer fools graciously (this is what we most like about him).
But he has things to say. Good things. Smart things.
Here’s a selection of what he had to say during a Tuesday conference call to promote the PowerShares seniors tour to take place next spring, which will include stops in Vancouver and in two of Roddick’s “home states” – Nebraska and Texas.
On the recent trend towards “supercoaches” (no, he’s not interested right now):
“Is it surprising to me? No. They’re able to get players who kind of have the itch to be involved again on a high level. Obviously that’s not going to be done through playing for those people. When you get to a certain level, there’s only so many people that kind of understand what you’re going through, kind of know what it takes to break through at that level.
“I’m not really surprised by the trend. I view these coaches almost like quarterbacks in the NFL. When things go right, they probably get a little too much credit. Should they go wrong, they’ll probably get the lion’s share of the blame.”
On all the kerfuffle that was made about the singles at the ATP Tour Finals this year being, er, less than dramatic, and the old familiar refrain about why the doubles (which was terrifically entertaining in London) doesn’t get more pub:
“I don’t know. Obviously I think the Bryans are the exception to a lot of rules regarding the doubles tour. If you have a small enough sample size of anything, you can make something a truth. I think the World Tour Finals was a complete outlier as far as the quality of tennis. I know people like to focus on that.
“If you look at the year as a whole, the best moments in history have been on the singles courts, on the money end of big events.
Again, the Bryans are the exception to I think every rule in doubles. But I don’t see a changing of the guards as far as the No.1 product on tour anytime soon.”
On why Roger Federer is still going strong:
“Well, it’s hard for me to say just because I was so dominant over him in our head‑to‑head (laughter). Listen, I was not one of the guys who was jumping off a ship last year when he had a rough two months. Roger is always going to be a great tennis player. As long as his body is healthy, he’s going to be one of the top players in the world. He’s never going to forget how to play tennis and he’s always going to find a way to be effective even as the game evolves and changes.
“For me it’s pretty simplistic. If he’s healthy, he’s going to continue to do what he’s doing. He has the benefit of being so athletic and graceful that he doesn’t have maybe the wear and tear that Jim and I would have basically because we’re not as talented and we can’t do the things as effortlessly as Roger can do. … From hearing him talk, he just really enjoys it still. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of stress involved. If he wins, it’s awesome. If he loses, on to the next one. That’s a pretty great place to be. He’s not trying to prove anything to anyone anymore. He hasn’t had to do that for a long time.”
On a question from Courier about how many spare bedrooms he has at his house in Austin, and which one Courier will be staying in when the PowerShares Tour hits his town next spring:
“There will be plenty of room for everyone except Johnny Mack, because he gets in a bad mood sometimes. Besides that, everyone is welcome (laughter).”
On the IPTL, and the talk about how the short off-season that has been the subject of so many player complaints has been made even shorter:
“Everyone is making a big deal, and I think it’s valid, people saying we’re asking for less time then playing exhos. IPTL is a choice. Don’t hold the choice of a couple to play exhos in the off‑season and use that as majority vote.
“There’s a reason why people are playing after their season is over. I’ll trust you to figure out what that reason is.”
On calling for greater flexibility with older players, allowing them essentially to cherry-pick a few big events to keep them on Tour longer:
“My whole point last week saying I would have thought about retirement a little differently if there was an avenue on tour to play eight or ten events a year, kind of similar to the amount of nights I’m doing on PowerShares. Once you start playing less than the mandatory events, you’re actually paying to take tournaments off, which seems a little weird to me.
“I think it’s shortsighted in tennis. Because there’s no home team, you need to keep your individual stars in the game as long as you possibly can. You can’t tell me that Andre at 35 and 36 years old, that he wouldn’t have value for the tour even if he were playing six or eight or ten events a year. Golf has that avenue. I think tennis should probably be a little bit more flexible with allowing people to schedule events later on in their careers.”
(It’s be great to get something like that on the books, before Federer turns 35, and Nadal turns 30).
On the women playing best-of-five sets at the Slams:
(Brought up recently with the news that Monica Seles, who will play against Gabriela Sabatini at that annual March Madison Square Garden tennis night, saying she thinks both the men and women should play best-of-five at the Slams from the quarter-finals on).
The question was phrased this way: “Do you think women can hold physically and mentally and emotionally for three‑out‑of‑five?”
Roddick is WAY too savvy to get into that debate.
“That’s not a question that’s going to do me any good any way that I answer it. But the other thing I guess you have to realize is, where is the time on the schedule for a Grand Slam event, especially considering two of them don’t have lights? Where are you going to schedule these matches? It’s a great idea in theory from somebody who doesn’t have to do it themselves. But like Jim was saying, just from a logistics standpoint of scheduling, we all know that the dollars from our sport come from television. If they have to fit in four five‑setters in a day on center court, that’s two days of play. Logistically I think it’s probably a little shortsighted.”
(Courier said that players like Seles and Navratilova, back in the days before equal prize money,would certainly put up their hands and say it wasn’t a problem, if that’s what it took. But he also said that if Seles thinks now’s the time, she should go to WTA Tour chief Stacey Allaster and lobby for it, with his support if it helps at all. But his main point was that any changes of this type should come from the players, not the people “in the ivory tower” who don’t actually have to do it. Good point).
If you want to hear more Roddick, listen to this podcast by David Law, done during the seniors event at Royal Albert Hall in London last week. It’s great.