SAN JOSE, Calif. — Over the weekend, Andy Roddick donned a knitted hat and a white golf glove at a celebrity pro-am in Pebble Beach, Calif., America’s one-time tennis poster boy trading in his workman’s racket for leisure and a nine iron.
Just 75 miles up the road this week, pro tennis continues without Roddick at the SAP Open in San Jose, in its final stint before the tournament is shipped to Rio de Janeiro after more than 125 years in the Bay Area.
It’s a tournament that Roddick made a staple in his tennis diet each February, playing it 10 times in the last 12 years. He won here three times, becoming part of a select group of American winners at this indoor stop that includes Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and John McEnroe.
But with no Roddick in San Jose this week, the new generation of players representing the red, white and blue is looking to fill the tennis-court sized void that Roddick has left in the sport, and the tournament’s draw is a who’s-who of American tennis.
Of the 28 men entered, 10 of them are from the United States. And there are 16 Americans in a qualifying draw of 32. Tim Smyczek, Ryan Sweeting and Donald Young won three matches to make the main draw, joining the likes of better-known names like John Isner and Sam Querrey.
Other than Roddick, seven Americans have made the semifinals in San Jose over the last 10 years, including Querrey and Ryan Harrison, the 20-year-old from Shreveport, La., whom many have pinned their hopes on as a future Grand Slam champion.
Harrison lost, 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-3, to Benjamin Becker in the opening round Tuesday. Querrey has former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in his second-round match Thursday.
“It’s a bonus to see these guys out here,” Harrison said of his fellow Americans. “I think everyone just goes about their business and tries to be as professional as they can.”
Last week at a United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit stop in Dallas, University of Tennessee alumnus Rhyne Williams won a title in a draw that included former United States Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri and former world No. 4 James Blake, each trying to resurrect his career.
There is no Blake or Ginepri in San Jose this week, nor is there Mardy Fish, who is still recovering from heart surgery after discovering heart palpitations during last year’s United States Open.
Journeyman Michael Russell, 25-year-old Ryan Sweeting as well as wildcards Steve Johnson, Jack Sock and Bradley Klahn round out the American contingent in San Jose.
Sock lost to the No. 7 seed Marinko Matosevic, 7-6 (5), 6-1, in the first round, his first professional match of the year.
For Harrison, there’s continued communication with Roddick, who will play World TeamTennis this summer and has close ties with the fleet of traveling American players.
“He’s given me some advice,” Harrison said Tuesday, cracking a smile. “He’s not trying to be my biggest cheerleader, he’s trying to actually help me. He’s telling me the hard stuff when other people won’t.”
After Harrison lost to Novak Djokovic at Australian Open in straight sets last month, Harrison said Roddick told him that “if you want to be a professional athlete at that level you have to train, eat, sleep and act like a professional at that level.”
“He said you can’t just do the hours on the court at that level, you have comply every aspect of your life,” Harrison added.