Me and my racket: Andy Roddick
The owner of the world's biggest serve talks about his signature stick: The Pure Drive Roddick GT Plus
tennishead: You’re the only current player we can think of with a tournament-ready racket named after him. How involved were you in the design process for the Pure Drive Roddick GT Plus?
Andy Roddick: Yeah, pretty involved. My relationship with Babolat goes back ten years, and I’ve used a similar version of this racket that’s out now. We’ve tried to sit down and think of ways to improve it over the last ten years, with this most recent version being the one that I’ve liked the most so far.
th: Your rackets are a half-inch longer than the typical 27-inch frames most touring pros use. What does that little extra length do for your game?
AR: When I was younger I was pretty small, so I used a racket that was a full inch longer to give me some power. As I got a little bit bigger I made the adjustment back down to the half-inch. I really don’t have much to compare it to any more – it’s something that I’ve played with for so long.
th: What was the first racket you played with?
AR: It was actually called a ‘Big Red’ – this flimsy little plastic racket handed down from my brother. I played with all sorts growing up, but I started using Babolat in 1999 and haven’t looked back.
th: We know you’re a huge college football fan. Seeing as it is your signature racket, did you think about asking Babolat to give you a red-white Nebraska Cornhusker paintjob, instead of the standard blue-black?
AR: To be fair, I think they’re probably more interested in appealing to tennis fans worldwide than some college football fans! I could make that argument, but I probably wouldn’t have believed in it too much!
th: How many rackets do you travel with to a tournament?
AR: I normally have at least eight with me, all freshly strung for each match.
th: What size grip do you use?
AR: I think it’s about a 4½.
th: What strings and what tensions?
AR: RPM Blast in the mains and gut in the crosses. The tension all depends. Some people go with one set tension – I normally carry at least three different tensions onto the court on a given day. They vary anywhere from 58lbs to 65lbs depending on surface, weather, and how I’m feeling.
th: You don’t use a vibro-damp…
AR: I use a rubber band. It’s kind of a luck thing – Andre [Agassi] did it forever ago, and I saw him do it when I was young, so I did it. I’ve done it ever since.
th: After broken strings and cracked frames, what makes you switch rackets mid-match?
AR: A lot of times if it’s really, really hot out, after an hour or so the strings will loosen up, so I’ll have a couple of rackets in the locker room and have them brought out and they feel a little bit fresher. When it’s cooler out I don’t switch around much.
th: At what stage in your career did you start playing with the configuration of your racket?
AR: When I was first on the tour I would take the lead tape myself and just cut it up the middle and start slapping it on. I used to get one racket strung per match when I was eighteen, but it’s slowly gotten worse for me – now every one is exactly the same! There’s six rackets, three different tensions…I’ve definitely become a little bit more paranoid, or prepared – depending on how I want to present it!
th: Can you tell us a bit about Roman Prokes, the man who modifies your frames?
AR: Roman’s like a racket savant – he did Andre’s rackets too. He takes the frame and adjusts the weight to just the way I like it, and works with the strings and everything. It’s just one less thing I have to fool around with – even the way he grips them. Every racket I have is pretty much exactly the same, so it takes the mental warfare with your equipment out of the equation.
th: Do you add weight to the frame?
AR: Yeah – well, Roman does. I couldn’t tell you specifics. One of the reasons I have him is so I don’t have to play that numbers game in my head!
th: Any habits/superstitions?
AR: Not really. I can’t think of anything besides getting them strung up every day regardless of whether I use them or not. Nothing too crazy.
th: When was the last time you smashed a racket?
AR: When I was injured [ahead of the ATP World Tour Finals] I wasn’t out on court for six weeks – that’s probably the longest I’d gone without breaking one for a while!