Enthusiastic Roddick is anything but vanilla

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


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 Ices 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 cant 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 Roddicks 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 ATPs plan to move the tournament to July next year is successful. I'm very loyal to this tournament. I can definitely say its on my schedule next year, regardless of when it is."

Roddicks enthusiasm -- embodied by his tendency to wear his caps backward and his personal desire to hear music played during changeovers -- could help ignite mens 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 mens 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 Roddicks madness at the microphone Sunday night. Whether he will rap again is an unknown even to Roddick.

"Next year, I dont know what Im 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 tournaments 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 its 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.

Completing the first round, qualifier Kevin Kim won the battle of the Americans when Trevor Spracklin retired in the second set. Spracklin, who was trailing, 6-1, 5-1, could not continue after straining his right wrist.

Ninth-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile downed Irakli Labadze of the Georgia Republic, 6-4, 6-3, while 10th-seeded Todd Martin outlasted Stefano Galvani of Italy, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Alex Kim of Potomac edged Flavio Saretta of Brazil, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5); Justin Gimelstob of Miami took care of Kenneth Carlsen of Denmark, 6-3, 6-3; Bob Bryan of California defeated Danai Udomchoke of Thailand, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1; and Michael Russell of the United States walloped Christophe Rochus of Belgium, 6-2, 6-2.


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).

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

Todd Martin 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. Noem Okun, 6-2, 6-2.

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