Had you lost your wits for a moment, you could have been killed in the stampede. No more than 10 minutes after Andy Murray had hit his last ball of Wimbledon 2009, into the net wouldn't you know, he was in the interview room, waiting to be grilled by the British media. Trouble was, nobody was expecting him to be in that quick so when the call went out, the press pack rushed as though they were giving away free money. Nobody, we've been assured, got injured in the charge.
Thing was, they'd have been better holding off to listen to Andy Roddick. As ever, the American has been the star draw in his dealings with the press this week, spiky, irreverent and always interesting. The biggest headlines he made in the first week surrounded the admission that had some Rick Astley songs on his iPod, but he hasn't been slow in giving journalists a bit of stick. "That's hardcore journalism there," he responded to one inane question this week. "We have a show called 20/20 back home where they ask questions like that. Just hardcore."
That exchange gives a flavour of the American's character, something that can be seen in how he plays the game. He is a hyperactive presence on court; few modern players move from point to point as quickly. He can, at times, resemble an ADHD sufferer as he pulls his t-shirt over his shoulders, grabs a ball in his hand and fires off a serve in that unorthodox style of his in a matter of seconds.
His hyperactive nature, however, has caused him strife off court, particularly with his coaches. He rose to the top of the game five or six years back under the tutelage of Brad Gilbert, a man whose coaching manual, Winning Ugly, summed up his approach to tennis. After winning the US Open in 2003 and reaching two Wimbledon finals, the pair went their separate ways, reportedly because Roddick didn't train hard enough for his coach's liking. He then linked up with the more free-spirited Jimmy Connors, the eight-times Grand Slam winner, who helped evolve Roddick into a more complete player, one not so dependent on his serve.
They, however, fell out over a training venue in March 2008 – Roddick wanted to train in New York so he could spend time with his then girlfriend and now wife, Brooklyn Decker, Connors wanted to follow their normal routine – before Larry Stefanki, a former coach of John McEnroe and Tim Henman, was hired late last year to fill the breach. So far, the alliance seems to have worked. "He says stuff is much easier in a match if you do it a thousand times in practice first," says Roddick of his new, 51-year-old coach. "He always tells me that we'll do something two more times and 20 times later, we'll still be at it."
Hard work, then, would appear to be behind his upturn in fortunes this season and for the American tennis fan, it's high time Roddick reached another Grand Slam final. He was supposed to be the one to carry on where Sampras, and Agassi left off. His innate confidence in his ability added fuel to that particular fire. At the age of nine he got hold of a half-a-dozen tennis balls and scribbled his signature across them with a black marker. "Hold onto this," he told his rather baffled parents and siblings. "It might be valuable one day."
Today, however, and in this tournament in particular, he comes across as individual more comfortable in his own skin. Less brash, more honest. He admits to enjoying tennis, particularly the preparation side of the game, a lot more than he did a few years back and he feels his accumulated experience has helped to get him through to this afternoon's final. "I think grass, you know, it definitely takes some getting used to," he says, "unless you're Becker or someone like that. Even Pete [Sampras] in his first couple years admitted he was a little uncomfortable on it. I think if you've played on it for years and years and years and years, I think the adjustment period is probably a little bit quicker and that's worked for me."
That experience, however, won't be much of an advantage today against Roger Federer who plays grass like no other. Yet he is not without hope. He won the first set of the pair's 2004 final, and was extremely competitive in a straight sets defeat 12 months later. Andy Murray, for one, isn't ruling out a shock. "I had a pretty good record against Andy as well going into our match," says the Scot. "If someone serves 130 miles an hour consistently throughout the match, between 70 and 80 per cent, it's very tough to break them, especially on a court that's very quick."
He might also have a portion of Centre Court behind him this year thanks to, according to the player himself, the Wimbledon press pack. "I've developed a bit of a rapport with the fans," says Roddick. "Maybe you guys have helped me by asking a bunch of goofy questions and me giving a bunch of goofy answers." If he's as sharp with his tennis as he with his answers, it could be an interesting afternoon.
wimbledon men's final
Live, BBC1, TG4, 1.30