Sunday, September 21
Roddick soaks in aura of winning Open crown

ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Andy Roddick stands in Times Square holding the U.S. Open trophy for a photo op Monday. His spiked hair transformed from straight up into a pyramid. His personal entourage appears relatively small -- although it includes girlfriend Mandy Moore. But photographers, reporters and New Yorkers, who recognize their new champion, swarm nearby.

Andy Roddick
Andy Roddick was front and center Monday in Times Square.

The mayor of Boca Raton, Fla., called to say they want to give him the keys to the city, and it's rumored that President Bush might call later.

"It's craziness. It hasn't stopped," Roddick says.

It's only the day after Roddick won his first Grand Slam tournament. He's had four and a half hours sleep after celebrating with friends and family. Did he finally get to have that beer to celebrate turning 21 on Aug. 30 that had to wait until after the tournament?

"I did," he says, adding emphatically: "Plural."

Although he's developed a maturity that makes him seem almost comfortable with his situation -- this day he's already appeared on Today, Regis and Kelly, taped items for ESPN's Outside the Lines and Dan Patrick's radio show, and plans to go on TRL and Letterman later -- Roddick, like any other new 21-year-old, is disappointed he wasn't asked for ID.

"I really wanted to get carded -- 'Come on I can actually show you something this time,' " he says.

Perhaps the silver trophy he's carrying kept them from asking for ID. It's all been a blur for him, he says. The trophy doesn't even bear his name yet -- the last line reads: 2002 Pete Sampras.

Newly retired Sampras, who earned five lines on the trophy, will never again be added to that list. Roddick feels he's got a long way to go before a comparison is made to the man with 14 major titles. However, as he sits in front of reporters at ESPN Zone, he talks about trading major titles in the years to come with the other players who have won on their best surface this year -- Juan Carlos Ferrero at the French Open on clay and Roger Federer on Wimbledon's grass.

It took this more confident and calm Roddick to win on his best surface.

But first, he had to make some changes after losing in the opening round of the French Open. Changes that started with the firing of his coach Tarik Benhabiles and the hiring of Brad Gilbert.

"That was tough. That was probably the roughest day of my career," Roddick says, "as far as stepping up and having to be an adult."

After winning the Open, Roddick called Benhabiles, who said he was "super happy" for his former student.

With the spotlight on Roddick, singer and actress Moore sits nearby, but is careful not to draw attention to herself. She quietly watches, looking casual, her hair pulled back and wearing a white T-shirt, just thin enough to see through, with pink velour Juicy tracksuit pants and flip-flops. The only giveaway that she's not your average 19-year-old is her designer handbag.

The two met in Toronto a little over a year ago when she was filming a movie and he was playing in the Canadian Open. Her admiration shines through a sweet smile as she talks about him.

"I just was so excited and unbelievably proud and happy for him," Moore says one-on-one, while Roddick is busy with yet another interview. "It's amazing that you can feel that for someone, for something that they just accomplished. It makes you want to work hard like that. I want to say I can do something in my life where so many people that I love -- friends and family -- say 'Wow, that's really unbelievable.'"

During the match, Moore sat with Roddick's parents across from his box. (She couldn't sit in it because she hadn't been there all week. Roddick, like other athletes, wants things to be the same. At Wimbledon, he politely asked that the same person escort him to the ESPN studio for an interview if he defeated Federer.) Moore says she's less nervous watching him in person than on TV.

With an album coming out in October and two films coming out next summer, Moore says, "It's nice to be the sidekick for a change."

"Nothing I do, it's not anything personal," Moore explains. "I mean you're obviously attached to the music or attached to a film project, but this is something he's single-handedly done himself. He's the one who got out there and kicked butt and was rewarded. Everything else is kind of like a team effort in my industry.

"It is overwhelming, but he handles it so well."

Despite Moore's assertion that he did this on his own, Roddick is quick to give credit to: his mom, who drove him to tennis practices for years; Gilbert, who taught him to control his mind on the court; and his trainer, for keeping him fit and even his previous coach.

"Every person has done something in a totally different way," Roddick says.

While the aftermath of winning his first major title is a whirlwind of activity that he says he's looking forward to finishing in order to rest up before leaving for the Davis Cup on Saturday, the tournament itself was not easy.

"It was such a roller coaster, from seeing the first round draw (Tim Henman) and wondering if I'm going to be packing after the first round," Roddick says. "To the controversy of the first week (with fellow player Ivan Ljubicic), through the rain, through playing well, through being down a match point and finally winning. It's definitely been a weird ride, it hasn't been smooth."

The script couldn't have been written any better, with Pete going away, Michael going away, the only thing that might have improved it was if Andre had played in the final.
Andy Roddick

Still, he says, he wouldn't change anything -- well, one thing.

"The script couldn't have been written any better, with Pete going away, Michael going away, the only thing that might have improved it was if Andre (Agassi) had played in the final."

Sampras, Chang and Agassi are the men he's been compared to time after time. They're the ones whose legacy he's supposed to carry on, although he's quick to remind that Agassi isn't done being a threat at majors yet.

"He was No. 1 two days ago," Roddick says.

Like Agassi, who was also coached by Gilbert, Roddick's maturity also shows as he describes changes in his routine before matches. He maintained a quiet focus and turned off his cell phone for two weeks.

"I used to listen to music to try and get myself jimmy-jacked up and do that whole thing," Roddick says. "Literally, I've just been sitting in the locker room doing nothing, just talking to people, and once it's time for me to go on, I go on and I play. It's been very simple. I've tried to keep it as simple as possible."

That might be easier than you think when it comes to the rest of the season. His poor indoor-court season last year (he played only twice after the U.S. Open, and didn't get past the quarterfinals) serves as an advantage as he has fewer points to defend.

"I definitely have some room to make up some points," he says.

Although he might be doing some modeling in the future, he says he doesn't intend to do any acting -- "I did it once, and I couldn't even play myself," he said. Foremost in his mind now that he's reached this first major goal is moving from No. 2 to No. 1.

"It just makes me hungrier," Roddick says.

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor at ESPN.com.