If anyone in tennis is comfortable and capable of making the jump from grass to hard courts, back to grass again and then back to hard courts, it’s Andy Roddick.
The 29-year-old Olympian advanced to the third round at Wimbledon late last month before heading back home to hit the summer hard court circuit. He will compete in Atlanta for an Emirates Airline US Open Series event July 14-22, and then head back to London’s All England Club for the Olympic tennis competition July 28-Aug. 5. Not long after the Games, he will hit the hard courts in preparation for the U.S. Open in New York, which begins in late August.
“Yeah, it is [unusual], but the schedule and everything is always a little weird during an Olympic year,” Roddick said during a teleconference this week. “But if you're in London, I think you have to play at the best venue in tennis, and that has to be on grass at Wimbledon.”
The No. 27-ranked player in the world has been a fan favorite at the All England Club since he took Roger Federer to the brink there in 2009 during a five-set Wimbledon final. Federer, who captured his seventh Wimbledon title earlier this month, has committed to play in the Olympic Games as have Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Roddick is expected to compete in singles, doubles and mixed doubles events at the Olympic Games. The last U.S. man to win an Olympic tennis gold medal was Andre Agassi back in 1996.
“Selfishly, it's not stressing me out too much because I played a lot of grass court tennis and I enjoy it, same for hard courts, [it] doesn't take me a lot of time to switch between the two,” he said. “I'm looking forward to it.”
In London this month, Roddick will play doubles with top-ranked American John Isner but it’s unclear who his mixed-doubles partner will be.
“I don’t know, you’re asking the wrong person,” Roddick said when asked if he would team up at the Olympic Games with Serena Williams, who is coming off both singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon.
“You’re not in the running?” the reporter followed.
“I don’t know.”
“Have to ask Serena?”
“I think so.”
Both Serena Williams and her sister, Venus (who was the Olympic women’s champion in Sydney in 2000) are on the Olympic squad along with Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko. The world’s No. 1 doubles team, Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber, will represent the United States as well. The Williams sisters won the Olympic doubles gold medal in Sydney in 2000 and eight years later in Beijing.
The 2008 Olympic bronze-medal doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan will play doubles on the men’s side while youngsters Ryan Harrison, 20, and Donald Young, 22, will round out the men’s squad, making their Olympic debuts.
“It’s a dream come true, I’ve always dreamed about being in this position and being able to represent the country and I’ll try my best,” Harrison said this week during the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, R.I.
Harrison lives and trains with Roddick in Austin, Texas.
“He’s been extremely generous to me throughout my career and we have a good friendship,” Harrison said. “He has been able to help guide me and mentor me on some things he’s learned over the years and so playing in the Olympics, obviously he’s done that before, so hopefully he’ll have some words of wisdom for me on playing my first Olympics.”
Roddick lost in the third round at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games before bowing out of the U.S. Open in the quarterfinals, just a year after he won his only Grand Slam to date at the U.S. Open. He skipped the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games to prepare for the U.S. Open.
This year he said he welcomes the grueling schedule, which will take him to the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Aug. 4.
“I mean, it's difficult,” he said. “Anytime you add a huge event like the Olympics to an already crowded schedule, it creates something. All the players are in the same boat. It's not like I'm the only person who is going to have to go from the Olympics to Toronto. It will be a little bit of a toughness test, which I think is fine.”
Unlike in Athens, Roddick and the American tennis team will not stay in the Olympic Village since it is too far from the All England Club.
“They estimated with traffic it could be an hour and a half or two hours out to the court,” Roddick said. “Three to four hours round trip is not what you need on game day. Even though I'm not going to stay there, I hope to get over there and walk around and try to meet some of the other athletes, get a feel for it.
“If we have an off day or some time beforehand, I'd love to get over there and check it all out. I would go to any Olympic event. As I've said before, you don't need a vested interest or a complete knowledge of a sport to kind of get into it. It's a very simple thing. You see the stars and stripes and you want to cheer for that. Yeah, hopefully I'll be able to get out and see some of it.”
Roddick is also looking forward to playing more consistently after battling injuries for the last year and a half.
He said he finally feels like he’s getting has game back now that he netted his 600th victory en route to winning the Eastbourne Open heading just before Wimbledon. At Wimbledon, Roddick lost a close match to Spain’s David Ferrer, 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-3.
“I was a lot better,” Roddick said. “I won an ATP Tour event the week before, which I thought I was real far away from that going into that week. I wasn't playing well at all. I played well at Wimbledon. I lost the match to Ferrer. But he also had a look at beating [Wimbledon finalist Andy] Murray and getting up two sets there, potentially making a final. I'm not far off.
“I felt like I made a lot of strides in those two tournaments, Eastbourne before, and at Wimbledon. I'm optimistic about the summer.”