Andy Roddick sat on a bleacher on Court 3 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, all ready for his 10 a.m. practice Monday, and said, "I just want to feel like a tennis player again."
It was a cry from the heart from this whole-hearted performer who rarely has been given proper credit for his service to America's Davis Cup cause and his back-breaking effort of finishing in the world's top 10 every year from 2002-10.
It didn't quite break his back but it beat up his muscular frame to such an extent that 2011 turned into a relentless struggle to get fit and stay fit. As a result he has played only eight matches since October and misses the routine of constant tournament play.
Once he got on court for practice Monday, he seemed to be hitting the ball very well against the talented German Philipp Kohlschreiber as coach Larry Stefanki watched from the sideline but that is not the same thing as playing matches. He is scheduled to meet another German, Philipp Petzschner, on Tuesday in an ATP 250 event.
Roddick still managed to finish the year at No. 14 but is now at 30, having lost early in San Jose to Denis Istomin and in Memphis last week to Xavier Malisse. However he insists ranking is not his focus.
"I'm not as concerned with the ranking as much as getting into the flow again," he said. "My level will be fine once I start winning the numbers game -- more winners than errors. I just need to feel comfortable playing matches. I've been at home too long!"
Roddick had the Oscars on his mind as he continued, "It's different in sports. You win an Oscar, and everyone views you a certain way for 40 years. In tennis, you have to be better than a certain person on a certain day, and that's what counts. That's what I find fun and fascinating about sports, even though you have some geniuses telling you how to play. But I'm never too proud to try and adjust. I'll do whatever it takes."
Roddick is rightly proud of his top-10 record.
"When Roger (Federer) and I started, there were guys in the top 10 who didn't last up there for three years. But we stuck at it for 10."
Federer is now moving into his 12th year as a top-10 player. Roddick, like everyone else, is in awe of that achievement. But build and style of play have a great deal to do with Federer's longevity. As Federer has pointed out on numerous occasions, the Swiss is a light mover, not particularly muscular and does not use extreme grips. As a result he has never been seriously injured.
Roddick is simply a different kind of athlete with a different style. And his body suffers as a result.
But Roddick has not been wasting his time back in Austin, Texas. He has started co-hosting a Saturday afternoon sports talk show on FOX Sports Radio with his friend Bobby Bones.
"We've been incredibly lucky getting syndicated nationwide almost immediately," Roddick said. "I've never been shy of stating an opinion and I've always loved radio, so it seemed like a great thing to do. I was way over prepared for the first show and found myself looking at my notes too much and not listening to the person's answers. So I've learned to let it flow a bit more. And, as talking sports is what I love to do, anyway, it's been great so far."
Now, if his tennis could just flow again, everything would be right in Roddick's world.