The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Whirlwind start to a new life
- I would have never imagined what it was like to win a Slam… or the aftermath: Roddick

New York: His hair spiked and jeans ripped, Andy Roddick strode through Times Square with pop star girlfriend Mandy Moore on Monday.

Passers-by slapped him on the shoulder or asked him to stop and pose for a photo. Morning interviews on American television shows were behind him, and more were awaited.

It was a whirlwind start to Roddick’s new life as a Grand Slam champion, a day after he beat new No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 in the US Open final.

“It’s craziness. I would have never imagined what it was like to win a Slam, and I never imagined the aftermath of it, either,” Roddick said.

Already there were plenty of expectations and eyes on him.

By winning, Roddick quickly began to fulfil what has been predicted for him. His first major title came in his 12th Grand Slam tournament.

“In America, we have such a long line and tradition of Grand Slam champions, that it’s almost expected. It definitely is a monkey off my back,” Roddick said.

“I got sick of hearing it. I’m not going to lie. It was there before I deserved it. ... I’ve always had — fair or not fair — attention paid to me. A lot of it was undeserved.”

Roddick is now a career-best No. 2 in the rankings and said his objective is to finish the year at No. 1.

“I’m not at the top yet,” he said. “This is awesome for me. I’m so happy. But it doesn’t make me any less hungry. I definitely want to get out there and keep working hard and keep trying to improve.”

If anyone is set up to handle what’s ahead, it’s Roddick.

He’s a natural entertainer who, a la Jimmy Connors, slapped high-fives with spectators after one spectacular point at last year’s US Open.

He’s comfortable speaking his mind, something Pete Sampras never quite mastered, but Agassi, Connors and John McEnroe all did.

And, most importantly, he has a strong support system in place, one that’s carried him this far and will help him in the future.

His parents and brothers keep him grounded. His sister-in-law, Ginger, handles the public relations. And coach Brad Gilbert, who used to work with Agassi, has guided Roddick to a 37-2 record since June.

“Every person has done something in a totally different way,” Roddick said.

“My mom has been driving me to tennis practices since I was I don’t know how old. The mind things Brad has done with me. My trainer — how many countless times we’ve stretched out together. It was a culmination of all those little things put into one.”

Roddick turned 21 halfway through the US Open, and the signs of his maturity are plenty.

He didn’t take the bait when he was told how second-round foe Ivan Ljubicic ripped his on-court demeanour and said other players don’t like Roddick. Instead, he said all the right things to the media and called the Croat to hash things out.

And he didn’t panic when he lost the first two sets and faced a match point during his semi-final.

“His abilities and his knowledge for playing big points now — it seems to me to be a lot different. He’s not as overanxious at times. He’s able to stay in there, to work the point a little bit more,” Connors said. “He’s big, he’s strong, he’s powerful, he moves around the court well.”

After losing in the first round of the French Open, Roddick decided to part with long-time coach Tarik Benhabiles. He took a train from London, where he was getting ready for Wimbledon, to Paris to break the news.

“That was the toughest day,” Roddick said, “as far as stepping up and having to be an adult.”

Now that he’s stepped up on court, too, anything seems possible.

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