Enthusiastic Roddick is anything but vanilla

Legg Mason champ in '01 believes men's game gets a bad rap, is not bland

Tennis

August 14, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Andy Roddick sure knows how to work a crowd.

Besides banking on his youthful looks, big serves and blistering ground strokes, Roddick also can rap - as he did at a party welcoming players to the Legg Mason Tennis Classic on Sunday night.

The 19-year-old Florida resident kicked out his own version of Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby," performed with the Bryan Brothers band, which includes ATP doubles players and twins Bob and Mike Bryan.

"I wasn't planning on doing anything, but when someone gets you up there in front of 500 to 600 people and tells you to do it and the band starts to play, you can't punk out," Roddick said during a 30-minute news conference at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park. "I decided to suck it up and embarrass myself."

Though Roddick's vocal performance might need some major work, his game on the hard courts is in high gear.

Roddick is ranked ninth in the world in just his third season as a pro, and added two singles titles this year to boost his career number to five.

He returns to the area as the defending Legg Mason champion after defeating Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands in straight sets last year. The tournament has been a gracious host to Roddick, who was awarded a wild-card berth in 2000 and promptly reached the quarterfinals.

"This is a very familiar and comfortable place for me," he said, adding he would continue to come to the Legg Mason even if the ATP's plan to move the tournament to July next year is successful. "I'm very loyal to this tournament. ... I can definitely say it's on my schedule next year, regardless of when it is."

Roddick's enthusiasm - embodied by his tendency to wear his caps backward and his personal desire to hear music played during changeovers - could help ignite men's tennis.

Gone are the days of challenging umpires, exchanging words with opponents and throwing rackets. These days, the top players are more introverted, and men's tennis has been deemed less exciting than women's tennis, which has a few more volatile personalities on tour.

But Roddick said he believes men's tennis is just as interesting as the women's game - with one exception.

"I think a lot of players on the [men's] tour here respect each other too much to take jabs at each other," he said. ""I think a lot of the emotion you talk about in women's tennis takes place off the court."

Off the court, Roddick said he tries to focus on things other than tennis. Roddick said he usually plays his best tennis when he is relaxed and having fun instead of worrying about his game.

So maybe there was a method to Roddick's madness at the microphone Sunday night. Whether he will rap again is an unknown even to Roddick.

"Next year, I don't know what I'm going to do," he said. "I know the words to `Jingle Bells.' Maybe I'll just sing that really fast and people won't notice."

NOTES: Like Roddick, Schalken is more than comfortable in Washington.

Schalken, the tournament's No. 3 seed who yesterday defeated 1997 Wimbledon finalist Cedric Pioline, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1, in a second-round match, said he felt at home here.

"When I came here three, four days ago, I felt right away that I could play here," said Schalken, who is ranked 18th in the world. "And it's nice to meet people who remembered what you did last year."

In other second-round action, top-seeded Andre Agassi wasted little time in disposing of Noam Okun of Israel, 6-2, 6-2, on a day when there were no surprises.

Today's marquee matchup on Centre Court pits Michael Chang against Jerome Golmard at 4 p.m.

Other matches on Centre Court (times approximate) include Alex Kim of Potomac facing 10th-seeded Todd Martin at 5:30; Roddick playing Justin Gimelstob at 7; and Oleg Ogorodov vs. sixth-seeded James Blake at 8:30.

Results

First round

Fernando Gonzalez (9) def. Irakli Labadze, 6-4, 6-3.

Kevin Kim def. Trevor Spracklin, 6-1, 5-1, retired.

Oleg Ogorodov def. Julien Varlet, 7-6 (3), 6-4.

Lars Burgsmuller def. Neville Godwin, 6-3, 6-2.

Alex Kim def. Flavio Saretta, 6-4, 7-6 (5).

Frank Dancevic def. Nikolay Davydenko, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

Justin Gimelstob def. Kenneth Carlsen, 6-3, 6-3.

Bob Bryan def. Danai Udomchoke, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-1.

Michael Russell def. Christophe Rochus, 6-2, 6-2.

Todd Martin (10) def. Stefano Galvani, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Second round

Sjeng Schalken (3) def. Cedric Pioline, 7-6 (5), 6-1.

Andre Agassi (1) def. Noam Okun, 6-2, 6-2.

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