They do say people mellow with age and while Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt would probably not like to admit it, they have softened (ever so slightly) over the years. It’s fair to say that they didn’t like each other very much when they first played each other, back in 2001. They met 13 more times in their careers and there was always plenty of animosity between them.
But over the years, they clearly softened and it seems that it was at Queen’s in 2009 when the détente began. Having just warmed up, the match was delayed by drizzle in the air and the two men found themselves at the net waiting, with nothing else to do than to start chatting. There were even one or two smiles.
On Friday night, after his superb win over a shell-shocked Bernard Tomic, Roddick was asked what he thought about Hewitt, who had fought through yet another five-set epic to reach round three. His response was interesting, and genuinely warm.
“Oh, man, he’s probably the best competitor I played against,” Roddick said. “It’s weird. This year we’ve probably become friends. At first we probably didn’t like each other much and then it came to the point where we respected each other. Then it was slowly like we kind of each give a little ground and say, How you doing? I’m good. How are you? OK.
“Now we’ll text each other back and forth after matches and stuff. It’s funny how that’s come full circle. I come in today and he’s in the throes of a battle. Our lockers are right next to each other. He came in and he was really pumped up. It would be hard for me to respect what he’s done in this game more than I do.”
Tomic could do with sitting in on one of Roddick’s press conferences. While the American could be snippy with journalists after a loss, once he got through the first couple of minutes he was always interesting and tried to consider the questions and give honest answers. Tomic doesn’t struggle with honesty but the Australian also has not learned not to make it personal, singling out one writer for daring to ask him what he thought of John McEnroe’s claim that he had “tanked” the third set against Roddick (not tried). This is how the conversation went:
They made a pretty big deal of it on the last set, tanking, all that stuff.
BERNARD TOMIC: Really? What do you think?
I’m not sure. I think (because of) your relaxed style sometimes people get the wrong impression.
BERNARD TOMIC: That’s how I play. Do you have a problem with that?
No. It was on TV. It was a big deal. Better to give you the opportunity now to talk about it surely. BERNARD TOMIC: Yeah, no, that’s your prediction. I have mine. That’s how I play. If you think that’s that, it’s up to you. What is your name?
BERNARD TOMIC: Will who?
BERNARD TOMIC: From?
BERNARD TOMIC: I’ll remember you.