The Tennis Space: People of Influence:
Number 15: Andy Roddick.
Sphere of influence: The men’s locker-room, tennis politics.
True, Roddick is at his lowest ranking (number 27) for more than ten years, which is going back to the days when he wore a sun-visor and was still slam-less. Yet Roddick, a former world number one and US Open champion, would be the most effective figurehead for the locker-room militants. If the players decide to take industrial action over levels of prize-money at the slams – there has been some talk about a strike at the French Open – you can be sure that the American will be there at the centre of it. Roddick used to be the king of tennis, and he was king of Saturday Night Live, once presenting that show, and now he finds himself as the agitator-in-chief in the locker-room.
Not everyone in the men’s game is going to agree with him (Roger Federer will never strike, or threaten to strike), but Roddick could persuade others to lay down their rackets. Roddick is also unhappy at being made to play a certain number of tournaments: “U2 doesn’t ask to go on tour. They go on tour. I think that’s kind of the fundamental issue at hand.” As Roddick puts it, the players should not forget that they are “the product”, that they are the commodity which sells seats, rackets, shoes, air-time, watches, cars, soft-drinks. Those who run the four slams, and who would not want to give the players a much bigger cut of revenue, would be helped if Roddick were to slide even further down the rankings. For Roddick to lead the players, he does not need to be contending for slams again; he just needs to be there in the draw, to still be an active player.
Red Roddick can’t do this from retirement. But, if he stays on the tour, he can cause a lot of trouble. Tennis politics is not something which usually grabs many casual tennis fans – they couldn’t care less – but Roddick does have two advantages at trying to make this subject sexy: a model wife and an acid tongue.
The key message: “I think as the product, we shouldn’t underestimate our leverage in this game, especially if we do have one voice.”