Before the US Open, American tennis legend Andy Roddick spoke about the young American tennis stars who could easily become “the next Andy Roddick.”
Ever since 2003, a drought in major championships for American men has left tennis fans wondering: where’s the next Andy Roddick?
Rosecrans Baldwin explored this question last September in GQ Sports, speaking with American stars of yesteryear to explore what happened since Roddick hung up his racket in 2012.
“If you look at previous generations, there has been an American at the absolute top of the men’s game forever,” Todd Martin, the world No. 4 in 1999, told Baldwin. “We won so many slams, so many titles,” Michael Chang said, “I don’t know if we’ll have another generation like that.”
Baldwin noted that spring 2021 marked “the first time since the men’s tour began its ranking system in 1973 that there were no American guys ranked in the world’s top 30 players.”
Things are a little bit different this year. Taylor Fritz holds a No. 12 world ranking, while Frances Tiafoe is ranked at No. 26. Reilly Opelka is No. 28.
Ahead of the US Open, Andy Roddick himself weighed in on the conversation, discussing the possibility of seeing someone like Fritz, Tiafoe or Jenson Brooksby win it all in Flushing, Queens.
“Listen: I don’t want to be the answer to a trivia question any longer,” Roddick told FanSided. “I would love one of these guys to break out, and I hope they can.”
Andy Roddick weighs in on “the next Andy Roddick” debate
The first player that Roddick named was Taylor Fritz, which is no surprise considering his ranking and performance in the past year.
“Taylor Fritz has been playing great this year,” Roddick said. “Obviously, beating Rafa in the finals of Indian Wells, but past that result, he’s been playing deep into tournaments consistently. Almost beat Rafa again at Wimbledon in the quarters, so what I think is: he finds his pacing, he’s not scared of playing those tough matches against the top players anymore. I think he believes that he can beat them.”
“Be interesting to see when the draw comes out, how it shakes out for him,” Roddick continued. “I think his fitness is better than what it used to be. Credit to him, I think he’s really honed his craft over the last year, improved different things.”
Unfortunately, Roddick’s curiosity in seeing the draw for Fritz ended up being a premonition of the uncertainty he ultimately faced at the open. Fritz lost in the first round in an upset to fellow American Brandon Holt. After the loss, Fritz admitted he felt foolish for believing he could follow in Roddick’s footsteps this year.
“I feel like an idiot for thinking that I could win this thing, win the US Open,” Fritz said post-match. “I can’t go out and play a match like that. It sucks. I feel awful.”
Fritz is still a viable candidate to become the next Roddick, but Roddick wasn’t done with names — and there are still Americans in the running for the next major title at this year’s US Open. One of them is Frances Tiafoe, who is set to play world No. 16 Diego Schwartzman on Sept. 3.
“Frances Tiafoe — I actually saw him in the lobby of the hotel last night — and he’s always full of energy,” Roddick said. “It’s always great to see him. You’d like to see him under the lights. He has the kind of personality that lends itself to dramatic night tennis at the US Open, so you hope he gets that opportunity.”
Tiafoe has gotten that opportunity, and Roddick is spot-on: Tiafoe is electric under the lights. His enthusiastic celebrations are reminiscent of the energy Serena Williams has brought to her night matches at Arthur Ashe this week. Watching both Williams and Tiafoe continue on through the US Open is a treat for all American tennis fans hoping for more titles.
But there are other Americans lower in global rankings who also have a shot at becoming the next Andy Roddick. Jenson Brooksby, who defeated Tiafoe several weeks ago and famously stole Tiafoe’s signature celebration, is someone Roddick believes could “mix it up” this September.
“Jenson Brooksby kind of came onto the radar last year, came out and took a set off Novak right away in a night match,” Roddick noted. “He’s certainly not scared to kind of get in there and mix it up.”
Already, Brooksby has advanced to the third round after defeating world No. 29 Borna Coric, continuing on to face world No. 4 Carlos Alcaraz on Sept. 3.
Roddick also named up-and-comer Sebi Korda, who lost in his first round match to world No. 39 Nikoloz Basilashvili.
“I think, just by volume, we have a lot of really good prospects, maybe better than we’ve had in a long time,” Roddick said. “Sebi Korda, another one that needs to be in the conversation. So I think there is some upside there to be had.”
Although the Americans have already seen some losses on their home turf, there are still strong contenders who are battling to win another major title for the United States. It’s a drastically different world than the one that Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Andre Agassi once played in, and a different one than Roddick saw in his decade of dominance. But Roddick’s message of hope — that American men’s tennis is on the upswing — is one that makes the search for the next Roddick exhilarating.
Roddick doesn’t want to be the answer to a trivia question any longer, encapsulating the novelty that he has become in tennis culture: the last great American man to break through in the era of the Big Three. But if Fritz can beat Rafa and Brooksby can take a set off Novak, perhaps finding the next Andy Roddick isn’t so impossible after all.
Andy Roddick and USTA are partnered with IBM, who have been implementing developments in IBM Watson’s powerful analytic capabilities on the US Open app. Roddick spoke at length about what IBM Watson brings to the game of tennis in his exclusive interview with FanSided.