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Tennis Hall of Famer Andy Roddick talks with Long Island kids

Tennis legend Andy Roddick with Kidsday reporters Ella

Tennis legend Andy Roddick with Kidsday reporters Ella Jacobs, left, Phoebe Falk, Daniel Guevara and Platonas Demosthenous, of Bowling Green Elementary School in Westbury, at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. Photo Credit: Newsday/Pat Mullooly

We were able to meet and interview International Tennis Hall of Fame great Andy Roddick when he was on Long Island recently.

Were you surprised to make it into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017?

I was surprised to make it in 2017. I thought my career resume was enough, maybe, on the basis of some people that were already in. I absolutely did not expect to get in the first year. I don’t know that I was deserving of that, but I was certainly thrilled when it happened.

When you watch tennis on TV, do you say, "I can beat that guy"?

Well, it depends if it’s [Roger] Federer or not. Actually, for the first couple years I retired, that was a fun game to play, if I thought I could maybe still play and maybe still beat people. But that game has become less intriguing for me these days because I’m pretty sure anyone I watch on TV I cannot beat.

How did it feel to save a tennis player from a hotel fire?

Oh, 2004 in Rome. I think that’s a generous interpretation of what may or may not have happened. But I think everyone was in a bit of a panic, and thankfully the tennis guys got out OK. Unfortunately, not everyone did, but the tennis world seemed to come out pretty good.

How did you feel when you defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero?

I felt good when I beat Ferrero. I played him a couple of times. One was during the U.S. Open, so that was probably a little bit bigger than the other ones. But see, when we retire from the main tour, they let us play in the old persons' tour. And he has been taking revenge in the old persons' tour because he still thinks he’s on main tour.

Did you have trouble with simple things in the beginning?

I have trouble with simple things now. Increasingly so on the tennis court, unfortunately. But I think it is a game that’s built on basics and luckily, I was able to have access to some great coaches who always were encouraging. And so any technical flaws that I have and/or had were of my own doing.

If you weren’t a pro-tennis player what career would you choose?

That’s such a good question I have never had a good answer for. I don’t know. I think I was always interested in being around sports. I’m not sure if there was a lane for the business side of it or the strengthening-conditioning side of sports. I was interested in history when I was a kid. Not sure where that may or may not have led. But I think that’s a long-winded version of saying I’m glad that I did have tennis.

Have you ever heard people shouting in the crowd, and have you ever wanted to shout back at them?

I have heard them shouting, and I’m pretty sure I have shouted back at them. So I guess that would be a yes to that question.

Who do you wish was watching you every game?

It was always nice when my father came. My mother went to most of the tournaments with me and drove and did a bunch of that. And my dad had to work a little bit more often. So it was always a treat for me and I felt a little bit more pressure when he was there when I was a kid because I wanted to do well for him.

How often do you get noticed in public?

Not too often. Every year post-career it fades a little bit more, and I travel a lot less. So there’s only so many times the guy making coffee at your local coffee shop can mention anything before it just becomes boring for him. So, not as much anymore.

Do you prefer indoor or outdoor tennis?

I always preferred playing outdoors. I felt that I had a game that would have done a little bit better indoors, but I enjoy being outdoors. I enjoy different factors. I liked it when it was hot. I didn’t mind too much playing in the wind. And so indoors to me was a little bit more of an equalizer.

Does it ever upset you if a racket or string breaks during a match?

No. I would say that if a racket broke again, it was probably my own doing. When I was a kid I used to get a kick out of breaking strings in my rackets because in my mind I thought it was because I was hitting the ball hard. It doesn’t happen as much as you get older and especially when you get on tour, you get pretty fickle about the way your rackets are, so you tend to break strings less.

Who would you like to face in their retirement game?

I’ve played a lot of people in retirement. I’m trying to think. One person I was really happy to get a chance to hit balls with was Steffi Graf a while ago because most of the people I’ve grown up watching, I eventually got to play with at some point. And she was on my bucket list, so I asked her to hit balls with me one time randomly, and she obliged. It was pretty fun for me.

Do you have any lucky charms or superstitions?

Yeah, I used to be a little nuts. Not necessarily like carrying a rabbit’s foot or anything like that, but I was pretty superstitious about scheduling, so I would eat at the same restaurant the night before a big match or had to finish hitting a certain amount of time before I thought I was going to go on court. I probably was a victim of my own schedule of habits, maybe more so than superstitious.

How is retirement different than your tennis playing?

It’s two completely different existences, and it’s interesting to look back. I get to come on site to a tournament for a day, and it seems like it was a long time ago and I’m so far removed from it now. But I love traveling. I love playing. I love competing. I love doing kind of everything while I was playing. At this point in my life I’m also happy that I don’t have to do that anymore.

Patricia King's fourth grade class, Bowling Green Elementary School, Westbury

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