On his 30th birthday last week, while still in the running for the US Open, Andy Roddick announced his retirement from tennis. After a 12-year professional career, the dashing, all-American takes with him 32 titles, including one Grand Slam and three Wimbledon runner-up titles.
When unlikely tennis fan Elton John interviewed Roddick for Interview‘s July 2003 issue, Roddick was on the cusp of his cementing his place in tennis history. Asked where he saw himself in five years, he replied, “I’d love to [help the U.S.] win a Davis Cup title, and I’d love to win a Grand Slam.” One month later he won the US Open and went on to win the Davis cup in 2007.
Here we take a look back at the time before Roddick carried American men’s tennis on his shoulders, when he and Elton John laughed about their TV watching habits, we were all still listening to CDs, and Roddick was dating Mandy Moore.
Andy Roddick: The Two Statium-Packin’ Headliners–one a legendary tunesmith, the other, tennis’s next legend in the making—talk work and play. by Elton John
ELTON JOHN: Andy?
ANDY RODDICK: How are you?
JOHN: I’m good. I’m happy to be interviewing you. You know, I identify with tennis players because they live the kind of existence I did—out of a suitcase, hardly ever going home. How do you deal with that?
RODDICK: It’s okay. In the juniors it’s not really like that. You’re two months at home and then you go play two weeks. But [now that I’m in the pros] I’m dealing with it, I guess. [laughs]
JOHN: Do you like traveling?
RODDICK: It’s not so much that I don’t like traveling, it’s just that I love being home. I love being able to spend time with my friends.
JOHN: That’s why I come home after shows, now that I’m at an age where I can afford to come home every night on a plane. But you can’t do that in a tennis tournament.
RODDICK: No, you have to stay with the group.
JOHN: So what do you like to do when you go home? Do you just go out for a few beers?
RODDICK: I just, you know, do a whole bunch of nothing. [laughs] I go home, hang out, watch movies.
JOHN: Yeah, the greatest luxury for me is going home and watching six episodes of Six Feet Under on DVD—then I’m very happy.
RODDICK: Exactly. Go home, check the TiVo, and catch up on your TV. [both laugh]
JOHN: So how’s the season been going so far? Have you been happy with your form?
RODDICK: I started out well in Australia [in January]. But I’ve been battling injuries here and there since then. I feel like I haven’t really gotten started.
JOHN: It’s tough, because [once the season starts] you don’t really have time to get over injuries unless you take a lot of time off.
RODDICK: Exactly, because the sport is so repetitive. You play every week, so you just have to play on injuries sometimes.
JOHN: What kind of injuries have you had?
RODDICK: I had a wrist [problem] after Australia, and then I turned an ankle, and then I’ve been battling some knee tendonitis.
JOHN: [sarcastically] Oh, you’re fine.
RODDICK: [laughs] Yeah. Other than that I feel great.
JOHN: What are your goals for this year? I’m sure you’ve got your eye on Wimbledon, right? I think the grass at Wimbledon is such a good surface for you.
RODDICK: It should be. I don’t really play on grass that often. There are only [roughly] three weeks a year on grass [during the men’s pro circuit].
JOHN: Obviously you’d like to win a major, right?
RODDICK: That’s the big goal. But the day-to-day goal I’m focusing on is making the Masters Cup [in November].
JOHN: Which consists of the top eight players?
RODDICK: Yeah. If you make that, you’re kind of the best of the best.
JOHN: What do you take on the road with you? Do you have a big entourage?
RODDICK: No, no. I normally just have my coach and my trainer [with me].
JOHN: What do you do after you play?
RODDICK: Get some dinner. Chill in the [hotel] room. Listen to some tunes.
JOHN: Who are you listening to?
RODDICK: I just got a CD a couple of days ago—this guy named Jason Mraz. I’m kind of getting into that a little bit. I love John Mayer.
JOHN: He’s great. He’s a friend of mine. I’ve been championing him for a long time.
RODDICK: I just started listening to him like a year and a half ago. I met him last year, and I’m a big fan.
JOHN: You’re about as tall as he is.
RODDICK: Yeah, he’s big.
JOHN: Probably taller than you.
RODDICK: I wasn’t expecting him to be that big.
JOHN: Don’t give him any lip, he’ll beat you up. [Roddick laughs] So do you like practicing? I hate practicing.
RODDICK: Well, you don’t need to! [both laugh]
JOHN: I do. I get rusty before the tour starts. On some songs I haven’t played for a while, I forget the words. But you have to practice everyday, right?
RODDICK: There are some days when you wake up and you’re not feeling great and practicing is the last thing you want to do. But [usually] I don’t have a problem getting up for practice.
JOHN: You must do routines—volleying, serving, whatever. I haven’t got the patience for that. [Roddick laughs] That’s why I’ll never be any good at tennis. So there are a few good Americans now, like James Blake and Robby Ginepri. Ginepri’s had quite a year.
RODDICK: He has been playing well so far. There are a bunch of young Americans coming up right now, which is pretty exciting.
JOHN: Well, that’s good because American tennis never gets a good shake on TV.
RODDICK: When we’re in the U.S. hard-court season, we’ll get on ESPN daily. But [we get less coverage] when we’re in a foreign country. I would love to see the exposure of tennis go up. It would create more interest because there a lot of neat personalities [in the game right now].
JOHN: Right now you’ve got the Williams sisters, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and yourself. America has the best tennis players in the world, more or less.
RODDICK: The list goes on and on and on. I think we have a good, fun group of young guys.
JOHN: Are you friendly on the road with other players, or do people keep to themselves?
RODDICK: What’s so cool about our group of young Americans is that we all grew up together. I played Robbie for the first time when we were 11 years old, and Mardy Fish lived in my house [during my] junior year of high school.
JOHN: That must help when you’re on the road.
RODDICK: It really does. For selfish reasons, I’m really glad that they’re starting to do well because now I have people to hang out with. [laughs]
JOHN: Is Pete Sampras your idol?
RODDICK: I had six or seven guys that I really looked up to. I grew up watching Pete and Andre [Agassi], and Jim [Courier] and, at the end of their careers, [John] McEnroe and [Jimmy] Connors.
JOHN: What do you think of women’s tennis?
RODDICK: I think it’s great. The one thing I don’t like about it is there’s just not a lot of depth to it. You can pretty much pick eight players, and six of them will be in the quarterfinals.
JOHN: Why is that?
RODDICK: It’s tough for little girls to play the Williams sisters, who are these powerhouse athletes. What makes men’s tennis exciting is that you don’t know the outcome before you go in.
JOHN: I’ve always loved women’s tennis because of the great players—Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova. What do you think about Martina winning the mixed doubles championship at this year’s Australian Open at the age of 46?
RODDICK: I think it’s amazing. The coolest thing about Martina is that, even with all the success she has had, when she walks into the players’ lounge, she wears beach shorts and just hangs out.
JOHN: Very few people still love to play at that age. Bille Jean King is a good friend of mine, and she is still 100,000 percent into tennis.
RODDICK: Oh Billie Jean King is amazing. She’s so passionate about tennis.
JOHN: If she sees a kid playing well she gets excited about it.
RODDICK: I remember when I was first coming up, Billie Jean would come up to me [and say], “Oh, it’s great what you’re doing!” I’m like, “You’ve done everything [I’ve done], times 10.”
JOHN: What other sports do you like?
RODDICK: I played basketball in high school, and I love watching sports—I’ll watch everything except maybe hockey.
JOHN: Obviously you like playing basketball because you are tall.
RODDICK: Well, you definitely need the body to play basketball. You’re not going to see a lot of 5-foot-8, 5-foot-9 guys being too successful.
JOHN: Shaquille O’Neal once gave me a pair of his shoes. I think they were about a size 24.
RODDICK: I met [7-foot-5 Houston Rocket] Yao Ming earlier this week. [laughs] I mean, he could flick me like [makes flicking noise]. It’s amazing.
JOHN: How tall are you?
RODDICK: About 6 foot 2.
JOHN: I used to think that was tall. So do you think being tall in tennis is an advantage?
RODDICK: As long as you’re still athletic, it’s an advantage. But there’s a reason you don’t see 7-footers playing tennis, because [players need] mobility.
JOHN: You’ve got to get down for those volleys.
RODDICK: I think there’s a happy medium. Andre [Agassi]’s 5 foot 11, and he’s been playing well. He moves better than most guys who are 6 foot 4.
JOHN: Agassi is someone who is just an unbelievable player as far as I’m concerned.
RODDICK: It’s ridiculous, the stuff that he’s doing now.
JOHN: He’s becoming a better player.
RODDICK: Exactly! He did it, and he’s still doing it.
JOHN: So where’s your home base?
RODDICK: Boca Raton [Florida]. It’s all right, it’s good for training. You can train [all year-round] and they have all surfaces [to practice on], so it works.
JOHN: A lot of American players come out of Florida because it’s so conducive to playing outdoors.
RODDICK: It’s true. In Florida the conditions are so severe with the heat that you can train well there. It’s almost a cakewalk [anywhere else].
JOHN: The Australian [Open] is the most brutal tournament out of the majors, right?
RODDICK: I don’t know. Winning a slam on [the French Open’s] clay takes it’s toll on the body. But as far as pure heat conditions [Australia] gets pretty tough.
JOHN: So are you going to play the French [Open]? That’s a hard tournament to win.
RODDICK: Oh, for sure. There are so many guys who grew up on clay.
JOHN: Where do you see yourself in five years?
RODDICK: I’d love to [help the U.S.] win a Davis Cup title, and I’d love to win a grand slam.
JOHN: What do you have to work on most in your game at the moment?
RODDICK: I think I have a lot of room for improvement. My serve is okay, but I need to work on a lot of things: return, transition game, backhand.
JOHN: Well, listen, good luck.
RODDICK: Thank you very much.
JOHN: By the way, how’s [singer-actress] Mandy [Moore, Roddick’s girlfriend] doing?
RODDICK: She’s doing great. She says hello.
JOHN: Well, give her a big kiss from me. It’s great that you two are going together.
RODDICK: She’s a great girl. I really love her.
JOHN: Are you going to Wimbledon this year?
RODDICK: I don’t know what my schedule is, but I’ll catch up with you somewhere along the line.
THIS INTERVIEW INTIALLY APPEARED IN THE JULY 2003 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.
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