By Chris Starrs, special to EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com
ATLANTA – Andy Roddick is well known for his ability to apply his steely focus to whatever on-court task he faces, as evidenced by his appearance in five Grand Slam finals and his US Open victory in 2003, among many other achievements.
But during a Tuesday afternoon visit with the media at the BB&T Atlanta Open, the veteran allowed himself to be distracted by his old buddy Mardy Fish.
As Roddick’s press conference was winding down, Fish – the two-time defending Atlanta Open champion who was returning from a practice session and the reigning men's Emirates Airline US Open Series winner – stopped momentarily to observe the proceedings through the large windows, and once he got Roddick’s attention, he made a move to drop his shorts, eliciting a raucous response from those present and causing Roddick to forget the question he was asked.
The last American to be ranked No. 1, Roddick said he looked forward to competing in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London but added he was sorry Fish wouldn’t be there with the American team.
"Selfishly, I’m going to miss Mardy there," said the fourth-seeded Roddick, who will face France’s Nicolas Mahut later this week in the tournament’s second round. "We did the Olympics in 2004 and were in the Olympic Village and stayed in the same dorm room."
Currently ranked No. 27, Roddick is one of four players in Atlanta who will represent the United States at the Olympics. Although he and No. 11 John Isner will team up to play doubles in London, they’re not playing together this week.
"Mardy and I played doubles here, and as two of the bigger draws in the tournament, they normally like to play us at night, so I ran into the problem where I was getting scheduled at 7 p.m. and to follow, also," he said. "So sometimes it’s a bit of a tricky scheduling thing.
"(Isner and I) both thought that if we could take care of singles, we’d be confident playing doubles. And we are getting over to London early, so I think we’ll have plenty of time. We’re pretty confident that singles translates over (to doubles) pretty well, as long as you’ve had match play."
While the Olympics Games are just a few weeks away, Roddick said he didn’t hesitate to sign on to compete in Atlanta.
"I liked where this fell in the schedule," said Roddick, whose brother John was an All-America selection at Georgia in the late 1990s. "I wanted to play a lot this summer. I missed almost all of last summer, with the exception of one event and then the US Open. As I get older, I like playing a lot more in the States and traveling a little less overseas, so this was an obvious choice for me."
Roddick’s career has had many highlights – including hosting "Saturday Night Live" a decade ago – but he said being an Olympic athlete puts his accomplishments in a whole new light.
"It’s a big honor," he said. "You can tell someone walking down the street who’s not well-versed in sports that you play tennis, and they’ll say, ‘OK, that’s kind of cool.’ But when you tell them you’re an Olympian, it means something a little bit more to them.
"It’s nice because when we have big events, it’s all about our sport – it’s a very singular focus on tennis. With the Olympics, we’re a very small part of a much bigger event. It’s cool… It’s certainly a great event, and hopefully it will be a really great memory. Between singles and doubles, I like it being on grass, and I like it being two-out-of-three sets, and I certainly like playing behind Isner’s serve. We’ll see what we get."
The 29-year-old Roddick’s first ATP victory came in Atlanta in 2001, and he’s been reminded of that triumph – and his advancing age – several times this week.
"That was a long time ago," he said of his clay-court victory at the Atlanta Athletic Club. "I was out on the practice courts (Monday), and a nice fan said, ‘I was here when you won 10 years ago,’ and I said, ‘The scary thing is it was longer than that.’ But (Atlanta) will always be a special place for me because it was the first tournament that I won on tour."