Sunday, July 24, 2011

Andy Roddick Tennis

Andrew Stephen Roddick was born on August 30, 1982, in Omaha, Nebraska to Blanche and Jerry Roddick. Blanche was a schoolteacher and Jerry was a businessman who struck it rich accumulating Jiffy Lube franchises. Rambunctious even as a newborn, Andy earned the nickname “Tiger” from the nurse who helped deliver him. To his mother’s amazement, Andy was lifting his head after just two hours.

Older brothers Lawrence and John showed early promise in tennis, and their parents did what they could to foster their ambitions. Naturally, Andy wanted to do whatever his siblings were doing, and mimicked their strokes whenever he found an extra racket lying around. By his fourth birthday, he was banging the ball against the garage door, playing imaginary matches against Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker.

No one gave Andy much thought as a potential tennis star. His brothers were convinced their hammy younger sibling would become an actor. Or a baseball player. Andy had the skills and the bravado to back up just about any career aspiration. After he turned five, his mother found a legal pad with the words, “I can run faster, I can hit a ball far, I can catch every ball.”

Andy Roddick Tennis
Andy Roddick Tennis
Andy Roddick TennisThat was the same year the Roddicks left Omaha for Boca Raton, Florida. There John and Lawrence were able to hone their tennis skills year-round on a backyard court. John stuck with the sport after the move (though he eventually was forced to quit because of a back injury), while Lawrence became more interested in competitive diving. That left an opening on the other side of the net for Andy, who by the age of eight could hold his own against his brother and other kids much older.

In 1991, Andy’s parents gave him a fantastic birthday present: a trip to the U.S. Open in New York. That was the tournament that featured 39-year-old Jimmy Connors’s incredible run to the semifinals. Andy was captivated by Connors. He marveled at the veteran’s ability to stir up the crowd and then feed off its energy. That was the same kind of passion the youngster felt for the game.
Andy Roddick Tennis
Andy Roddick Tennis
Andy Roddick Tennis
Andy Roddick TennisAfter Connors retired, Andy latched on to Andre Agassi as his favorite player. Agassi too had the fire in his belly that Andy so admired. Also, like his new hero, Andy was not a big kid. In fact, he was quite short for his age. But older brother John was tall and talented, which gave him confidence that he would achieve the same stature sooner or later. Andy’s brashness was in full flower by the age of 10, when, during a tournament in which John was competing, he spotted a Reebok exec and offered him the deal of a lifetime to sign a “great tennis player.”

Incredibly, that is exactly what happened. Reebok inked Andy to play in its junior program. The relationship worked out nicely for both parties, as Andy moved through the juniors at steady pace.

By 1996, Andy finally began to grow, inching over five feet by December. When he sprouted another foot over the next few years, the resulting changes in his body played havoc with his game. Much of what Andy mastered at 15 he had to relearn at 16. His serve, in particular, was a mess. Used to firing spin serves as an undersized “tween,” he was now tall enough to cream the ball, but couldn’t find his groove. That happened during a practice one day, when Andy walked to the baseline and, out of frustration, threw the ball up and swung as hard as he could. The ball hissed into the service box. He reproduced this serve several more times and, certain he had stumbled upon something, began to build on the basic mechanics. He increased his speed up to 100 mph, then 110 mph and eventually 120 mph. His old first serve, meanwhile, became his second serve (and would one day be a lethal weapon, too).

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