Andy Roddick’s press conferences are justly famous. He’s a kidder, he’s blunt, he’s honest, and he’s pretty intelligent, too. You’ll often find yourself startled by a casual insight, though he does plenty of standard press conference blather, too (in response to standard press conference blathering questions).
So it’s not surprising but still refreshing to read his response to being asked about his 600th career win, which his victory over Andreas Seppi to procure the title at Eastbourne was. “When you do something, you know, 15, 16 people have done in the history of the game, it's two things: It makes you call into the fact that you are probably older than you want to be at this point, and secondly, it's a lot of wins. I mean, it's a lot of matches. You know, it's a humbling thing.”
That comment is classically Roddick: first it includes a self-deprecating joke (“you are probably older than you want to be at this point”) and then gives a disarming reaction to his achievement: He is humbled by having gritted it out so many times. That’s the unassuming side of his nature speaking – the one that’s grateful for his extraordinary lifestyle and happy for the chance to put in the hard work on something he loves. Of course, it’s the opposite of the icily sarcastic hothead who berates umpires and linespeople and throws his towel on the ground for scurrying ballkids to pick up – you’d never call that person unassuming. But that’s Roddick under pressure and competing. There’s a very decent, sporting part of Andy that most people are aware of by now, and it’s the side of him that has many tennis fans hoping for the unthinkable – that he somehow pulls off an astonishing run from behind and topples the top guns to win Wimbledon.
No tennis fan, or maybe even casual observer, can forget the 2009 Wimbledon final where Roddick lost to Federer after five hard-fought sets and no breaks of serve – a gut-wrenching match with a bitter conclusion. Even Federer couldn’t fully exult, musing in his post-court interview that he felt “funny, for some reason.” Roddick had come so close to achieving a long-held and seemingly impossible goal: to beat Federer. By the end of the insanely long fifth set (the final score was 16-14), which became a battle of endurance as much as skill, anyone aware of the match was gutted for Roddick.
He’s creeping up on retirement, so hopes for another Slam are exceedingly dim. And thoughts of the impressively dominant Nadal and hot-on-his-heels, fire-breathing Djokovic (to say nothing of Federer, always a threat at Wimbledon) losing their footing before the final are even more exceedingly dim. So it’s a wish more than a hope, but it’s there – that this hard-working and humble American can achieve his dream, the one he articulated to Pete Sampras in front of the crowd after the 2009 loss: “I hope someday to have my name up there beside yours.” That day, with Sampras and Federer beaming at each other in happy parity and referring to being “members of the club,” Roddick’s admission that he wished he could be part of that club was bravely honest. For that honesty and all his hard work, there’s probably no one who doesn’t wish him well at this point.