NEW YORK (Reuters) - From the moment he won his first and, to date, only grand-slam title at the U.S. Open in 2003, Andy Roddick has had to cope with the huge expectations of the home nation at Flushing Meadows.
While double champion Andre Agassi had one last hurrah when he reached the final in 2005, Roddick has been the one American ever-present over the past five years.
Four times a quarter-finalist, he reached the final in 2006, losing to Roger Federer, the man who has won the title every year since Roddick beat Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero to lift the trophy in 2003.
Having flown the flag for so long, Roddick goes into next week’s U.S. Open short of match practice after a number of injuries and is an outsider for the title.
Roddick, though, remains confident that he can go far in the year’s final grand-slam event.
“It’s a while since I have been (under the radar), maybe ‘01 or ‘02,” the world number eight told Reuters in an interview.
“But I am not someone who needs someone talking about them. I am more concerned with how I am playing. I realize there are better storylines this summer, (Roger) Federer (losing his number one ranking), (Rafael) Nadal, (Novak) Djokovic playing well on hard courts and Andy Murray playing well, so I don’t need that.
“I just want to play well and I feel like I can make a big run there. I know I can certainly compete.”
Having beaten Nadal, Federer and Djokovic in the first few months of the year, Roddick’s season hit the brakes in June when he hurt his shoulder. The American played through the injury at Wimbledon but was beaten in the second round.
A stiff neck kept him out of the Masters Series event in Cincinnati last month, leaving him just two events to find his form.
“I probably came back too early,” Roddick admitted. “Would I do it again? Yes, because it was Wimbledon.”
Roddick was the highest-ranked player not to compete at the Olympics in Beijing, believing that staying at home to play on hard courts was better preparation for Flushing Meadows than traveling halfway across the world and back.
He reached the final in Los Angeles but was beaten in the quarter-finals in Washington by lowly-ranked Serbian Viktor Troicki last week.
“Cincinnati is one of my favorite events, usually a tournament that I do well in, so (missing) that put a little hole in the summer,” Roddick said.
“I think not going to the Olympics is actually beneficial for me right now. I have been able to squeeze in two more tournaments, in Washington and LA. My expectations are a lot better than they were when I was sitting on a couch after Cincinnati.”
Roddick, who turns 26 on the middle Saturday of the U.S. Open, said he craved another grand-slam crown.
Would he take the offer of one more major title, on the proviso that he quit the sport the next day?
“That’s actually a question I’ve thought about before and I think I change my answer daily,” he said.
“In two, three years’ time, it would be a no-brainer. My gut reaction is yes but I think when I reflect I’d probably say no. I enjoy playing so much, the whole process, trying to figure out how to win. I am not sure I could give that up.”
Editing by Clare Fallon