The Nite at the Net featuring Andy Roddick
December 18, 2004
Still cameras allowed - no audio or video.
One of the biggest names in tennis is bringing his talent to Nashville. Andy Roddick, the World's No. 2-ranked tennis player and the most popular American on the pro tour, will headline “The Nite at the Net,” a one-night exhibition to be played Saturday, December 18, 2004, at 7:30. Tickets are $10.50, $22.50, $37.50, $57.50 and $77.50.
Roddick trip to Nashville part of a TV special
By JOHN GLENNON
Based on Andy Roddick's description of the three-city, five-day exhibition tour that concludes tomorrow at Gaylord Entertainment Center, it might be a surprise if he can still stand up, let alone deliver his punishing brand of tennis.
Roddick, along with Davis Cup teammates Mardy Fish and Bob and Mike Bryan, are being filmed during the cross-country, luxury-bus journey as part of a behind-the-scenes television special that will air prior to the U.S. Open next summer.
''It's kind of a Real World meets Andy Roddick meets frat house holiday, all on a really cool bus,'' Roddick said just before the trip began this week. ''Nothing has ever been done like this before in tennis. It's cool because a lot of people have preconceived notions about our sport and the players, but we're trying to change all that.''
One could argue that Roddick has been altering the perception that tennis players are as bland as starched white shorts.
How many other tennis players, after all, have had enough charisma to host Saturday Night Live, grace the pages of Vogue and earn interviews with Sir Elton John?
How many other tennis players have been named People magazine's sexiest athlete, or prompted the entire Australian women's water polo team to clamor for a single kiss?
In a sport crying out for personalities, Roddick, the world's second-ranked player, has proven more than eager to answer the call.
''Quite honestly, he's been a breath of fresh air,'' said Patrick McEnroe, captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team and one of the sport's leading TV analysts. ''He likes the big moment and he likes the big stage. He's a straight shooter, he's funny and he takes the game seriously, but not too seriously. He just gets it, in terms of the bigger picture.''
Roddick should have the opportunity to display some of that flair tomorrow, when he battles Fish in a three-set exhibition. The opening doubles match will feature the Bryan twins against Nashville's Brian Baker and former Vanderbilt star Bobby Reynolds.
''I think with an exhibition, you can have a little more interaction with the crowd than normal,'' Roddick said. ''You can show your personality a little bit more and that's something I look forward to.''
Roddick, 22, is smart enough to realize, however, that most athletes aren't nearly as interesting to the public when they're not winning on a regular basis.
His popularity rose with his victory totals in 2003, when Roddick captured the U.S. Open and earned his first No. 1 ranking. They were tough standards to set, which is why Roddick was slightly disappointed in his performance this year.
All he did was win four singles tournaments, reach the Wimbledon final, post a 74-18 singles record and earn more than $2.5 million in prize money, but there were some drawbacks.
Roddick was unable to repeat his Grand Slam win, and he slipped to second in the world behind Switzerland's Roger Federer.
''I'd say it was about as good a year as you can have without being great,'' Roddick said. ''But I'd raised the bar pretty high the previous year, so I just need to take all the positive and keep on working into 2005.''
Roddick faces quite a challenge in overtaking Federer, who beat Roddick in all three meetings last year, owns an 8-1 record against the American and captured three of the four Grand Slam tournaments in 2004.
''He really has no weaknesses because he does everything so well,'' Roddick said. ''And his confidence is so high that he doesn't think he should be losing at all. It'll take me or someone else to beat him once or twice just to make him think a little bit, and maybe have a few doubts.''
To that end, some believe Roddick must add some new twists to his game of power serves and power forehands.
''I think he's got to improve his transition game and his net game because he doesn't attack well enough,'' said Vanderbilt men's tennis coach Ken Flach, a former top-ranked doubles player on the pro circuit.
''I think he should be trying more chipping and charging. It might mean some losses in the short run, but I think it would eventually pay off when he's more comfortable at the net, with his touch and volleys.''
Roddick will also try to take the U.S. Davis Cup squad to the next level in 2005, after the team fell to Spain in the finals earlier this month. He posted a 6-0 singles mark in Davis Cup matches before the final, but lost twice against Spain — to 18-year-old Rafael Nadal and to veteran clay-court specialist Carlos Moya.
''Just playing in front of 27,000 fans is one thing, but playing in front of 27,000 Spanish fans is entirely different,'' Roddick said. ''They were crazy and they were letting me have it. I felt like I played a couple of strong matches and had my chances, but just didn't get it done.''
In a few weeks, Roddick will start gearing up for the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam event of 2005. But as for now, he and his tennis buddies sound like they're enjoying themselves during the exhibition tour.
''It's kind of cool and it's kind of weird, I guess,'' Roddick said. ''But these kind of things really have to be done. I'm up for anything that creates more interest in tennis and gets more people to watch.''
John Glennon is a staff writer for The Tennessean. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 259-8262.
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