From Centre Court at Wimbledon to the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield, Mo., Andy Roddick has played in his fair share of tennis venues.
But in 2016, the former world No. 1 will cross off a bucket list experience when he plays for the New York Empire of Mylan World TeamTennis.
This summer, Roddick will step onto Forest Hills Stadium at The West Side Tennis Club for the very first time. A self-proclaimed historian of the sport, it‘s an opportunity Roddick could not be more excited about.
“I actually have never been to Forest Hills and that was a big deal for me,“ Roddick said during a conference call Wednesday. “Coincidentally it worked out with the schedule. I think it was a great move taking the New York team to an iconic venue like Forest Hills. Frankly, that was one of the very, very appealing things to kind of come out and play this year.“
Though Forest Hills Stadium will be an unfamiliar setting for Roddick, New York City is a home away from home for the Nebraska native. It was here that Roddick tasted his greatest individual success when he became a Grand Slam champion by winning the 2003 US Open men‘s singles title over Juan Carlos Ferrero. Through the years, as the face of American tennis, Roddick‘s relationship with New York tennis fans evolved, as did his respect for their role in the sport.
“I feel like I‘ve grown up in front of New YorkÔÇª The fans are stoked there all the time,“ said Roddick. “If you give them everything you have, they‘ll give you everything they‘ve got too. Conversely, if you play like a schmuck, they‘re going to let you know about it. I‘ve always kind of appreciated the honesty of a New York sports fan.“
Roddick, who will play one match at home and one in Philadelphia for the Empire, will look to help his team get a victory over the five-time reigning champion Washington Kastles when they come to town on August 9th. Only the top two teams during the regular season have the opportunity to win the King Trophy, so for Roddick, the head-to-head clash against the Kastles has even greater significance this time around.
“In a shortened season, it‘s a huge thing. Every match means so much,“ assessed Roddick. “Obviously in any league when you‘re playing the top dog, it means even more than just a win or a loss on paper. Goal number one is to get a win for the Empire.“
For those fans coming to see him play in the WTT format for the first time, Roddick hopes they take advantage of the contrasting setting to traditional tournament tennis.
“I think it‘s the best parts of tennis,“ stated Roddick. “There‘s a fast paced energy, a lot of music in between, the excitement of playing no-ad scoring. Everything is quicker, faster, more in your face. It kind of demands your attention for the entirety of the two to three hours. I‘ve always liked it. It feels like the players become a little more interactive, just based on the difference of format. So it‘s something I‘ve always enjoyed playing.“
That interaction Roddick speaks of still hits home today. As a junior player, Roddick met Jimmy Connors for the first time at a WTT match in San Antonio, Texas. That level of access to superstars is what Roddick believes separates the League from its tennis counterparts.
“I was able to go to the US Open when Jimmy made his run and you couldn‘t get near him but at WTT, I was able to go up next to him, get an autograph and have a conversation,“ reflects Roddick. “I was a huge fan of the proximity that it afforded me and I was able to get that at even a young age. So, that was probably the first massive impression that World TeamTennis made on me.“