Roddick ready for solid showing at ATP Finals
Only Roger Federer has qualified for more ATP Tour World Finals than Andy Roddick. The Swiss legend was amongst the Elite Eight gathered at the County Hall Marriott on the River Thames Friday, having qualified for the ninth time, while Roddick, after posing for photographs in the shadow of Big Ben just across the river, was talking about how he had managed to make it No. 8.
"You have to get lucky," he said. "I mean, look at Juan Martin del Potro. He's had a bad injury, otherwise he would surely be here. I had to miss this event last year because of injury but generally I have managed to time my injuries OK. I'm particularly proud of having made it this year because I did get injured early in the spring and then got sick. So it's been a pretty good effort, I think."
Speaking to a small gathering of journalists at a round table while a rather larger crowd waited for Rafael Nadal to appear further down the room, Roddick was asked why he seemed to get criticized a lot when he didn't win things, even though his feat of finishing in the world's top 10 for nine consecutive years demonstrates an amazing level of consistency.
"Earlier in the year I dropped out of the top 10 for a week and didn't even realize it," Roddick smiled. "Then I started catching all the criticism and I thought, 'Hey, wait a minute, what about all the people who haven't ever been in the top 10 over the past decade!' "
Roddick admitted that being No. 1 in the U.S. left him open to all kinds of expectations. "It's the same with Andy Murray here," he said. "But you just have to get on with it. It certainly helps me to be back in a city where I feel so comfortable and where people seem to appreciate me."
Roddick's herculean attempt to defeat Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon final certainly won the hearts and minds of the British sporting public, and he will get plenty of support at the impressive 02 Arena where crowds of 17,000 are expected for both afternoon and evening sessions starting on Sunday. But he knows that there will be plenty of people cheering for his opponent, too, when he plays his first-round match on Monday. Nadal is a world superstar and will present Roddick with a fearsome challenge, especially as the Spaniard is desperate to do well here after arriving half-fit and mentally distracted 12 months ago.
"I feel great physically and am quite confident as I have a 7-2 record against the field over the past year," said Roddick who beat Nadal on the last occasion they met in the Miami semifinals in March. "The court will be medium-paced, a lot slower than Paris last week, but I know I will have to be aggressive against Rafa. It's no use trying to play cat-and-mouse with him."
Roddick has not been bored since arriving here over the weekend. He went to see Chelsea play Sunderland in a Premiership soccer match on Sunday and caught the biggest upset of the season so far, with the league leaders losing at home 3-0. "I probably won't get invited back again after that," he joked. Then there was a chance to see The Jersey Boys and hours of practice at the Queens' Club "where they have been kind enough to make me a member after winning the tournament four times!"
But the highlight seemed to be the visit to Downing Street and an opportunity to meet Prime Minister David Cameron. "He seems to be a bit of a tennis player and I was glad to see he plays with a Babolat racquet," Roddick laughed.
Cameron spent a lot of time talking to Andy Murray but that didn't worry Federer. "It's normal," he said. "He's the British guy. But we all enjoyed being there and it just shows how important this event is in this country, which is nice."
For as long as I can remember, the top players enjoy this year-end tournament because of its feeling of exclusivity. They know how hard they have worked to get there and how difficult it is to finish as one of the top eight. But it can still put them in some unfamiliar situations.
"It was quite funny, actually, when we arrived at Downing Street," Murray recounted. "We were ushered into this ante-room waiting to meet Mr. Cameron and we suddenly stood there in our suits, looking at each other, just us as a group, and although we all know each other really well, we didn't seem to know what to say."
It will all get much more familiar on Sunday when Murray kicks off the event with a match against the Masters Series winner in Paris, Robin Soderling, and Federer follows against the surprise first-time entrant, David Ferrer of Spain.