Site hosted by Build your free website today!
American Teen Wins First As Pro

American teen wins first as pro


American Teen Wins First As Pro

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- High school senior Andy Roddick will get to meet idol Andre Agassi this weekend in the Ericsson Open. The only hitch is that Roddick has to play him, too.

Roddick, a 17-year-old Floridian, earned his first victory as a tennis professional Thursday, beating Fernando Vicente 6-4, 6-0 before a small crowd on stadium court.

Roddick will likely be back on the same court when he faces Agassi in the second round Saturday. "I think the stands will be a bit fuller," Roddick said. "He's been a hero of mine since I was small. Even when I pass him in the halls here, it's like seeing a superstar celebrity."

Roddick, the first American to be ranked No. 1 in boys' juniors since 1992, was bound to meet Agassi sooner or later. They'll be Davis Cup teammates next month when the United States faces the Czech Republic, with Agassi playing singles and Roddick chosen as a practice partner.

Scouting the talented teen-ager from the stands Thursday was Agassi's coach, Brad Gilbert. Roddick, playing just his second match as a pro, settled down after a slow start and won the final nine games. Another promising Florida teen-ager, Mardy Fish, also won in his ATP Tour debut. Fish, 18, who lived with Roddick's family last year while training, led Galo Blanco 4-1 in the third set when the Spaniard retired because of a back injury.

The emergence of Roddick and Fish suggests a turnaround for the much-maligned U.S. juniors program. It has been in decline since Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang began winning Grand Slams more than a decade ago.

"We want to try to do what they did," Roddick said. "We've heard the talk about no young Americans out there. We talk to each other -- 'Let's try to do this.' We can use each other for competition and support."

Roddick, who lives in Boca Raton, won the Orange Bowl at Key Biscayne in December. A month later, he became the first American to win the Australian Open boys' juniors since Butch Buchholz in 1959. Buchholz now happens to be tournament chairman of the Ericsson Open.

Roddick, who turned pro last month, is the youngest player in the men's draw but far from the smallest. He has grown nearly a foot in the past three years to 6 feet 2 and, at 180 pounds, has the strength to blast winners from the baseline.

Vicente, a Spaniard ranked 41st in the world, had trouble making clean contact because of the pace and topspin on Roddick's forehand, his best shot. Serves came quickly, too. Roddick would occasionally sneak a peek at the scoreboard that registered the speed of his serve, which reached 134 mph on an ace. "I try to just glance over a little bit," Roddick said. "It's fun. It keeps it light."

Roddick's size helps him at the net, and he came in on 29 of 110 points. While the youngster looked awkward on some volleys, he has no intention of backing off. "I can't spend all my time at the baseline," he said. "There are too many good baseline players. I can hit the ball pretty good -- I'm just going to have to keep learning how to follow it in."

Roddick is known for a short fuse, but since the match went his way, there was more fist-pumping than racket-throwing. His animated gestures and facial expressions between points could make him popular with fans, and there will be plenty on hand Saturday.

"I'm just going to go out and try to have a really good time," he said. "I'll enjoy the moment."