Roddick, Clijsters among Tennis Hall of Fame inductees
NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Looking around the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Andy Roddick thought about all the things he is not.
Not as good as the historic greats, especially Americans who preceded him into the Newport shrine like John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Not as good as the modern Big Four — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — who stood in the way of him winning more than one Grand Slam.
“I’m not the best of all time. I’m not going to win Wimbledon. I’m not the best of my generation. I’m not the most well-behaved. I’m not the most polished,” Roddick said in a speech Saturday that was sometimes funny and sometimes poignant.
“I’m also never going to take this honor for granted,” he said. “I may not be a lot of things, but from this day forward, I’m never going to be anything less than a Hall of Famer.”
Known for his powerful serve and his often biting wit, Roddick was inducted into the Hall along with Belgian Kim Clijsters, six-time Paralympic medalist Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch and journalist and historian Steve Flink. Tennis instructor and innovator Vic Braden, who died in 2014, was inducted posthumously.
Clijsters won four Grand Slam singles titles and 31 overall, including the 2009 U.S. Open as an unranked, wild-card entry after coming out of retirement after the birth of her daughter. “Sorry, guys, but it’s different,” said Hall of Famer Chris Evert, who presented Flink for induction.
Evert said she developed a friendship with Flink over his career, which started when he was a researcher for Hall of Fame tennis writer Bud Collins. He went on to write books and magazine articles and provide tennis commentary on TV and radio.
Evert spoke in awe about Flink’s recall for long-ago matches, and how he would interrupt her at press conferences when she got details about her own record wrong. “Steve Flink is being inducted today for a lifetime of making tennis the center of his world,” she said.
Kalkman-van den Bosch discussed fighting cancer at the age of 14 and fearing that she would never play tennis again. Her friends pushed her around on a court in her wheelchair so she could she feel like she was still involved with the sport.
“I’m so fortunate to have tennis in my life,” she said. “It’s been magic for me.”
Roddick thanked his several coaches and his father and his wife, Brooklyn Decker, who sat in the stands near fellow model Chrissy Teigen and her husband, singer John Legend. He also congratulated his fellow inductees, joining those who praised Clijsters as a person.
“I have a simple way of putting it,” he said. “If you have a problem with Kim Clijsters, I blame you.”
Roddick also spoke of sneaking into the players’ lounge at the U.S. Open when he was 8 years old and playing video games with Sampras, too scared to speak. Eleven years later, they were on the same Davis Cup team.
And he said he doesn’t play “the ‘what-if’ game” and wonder what he might have done if he hadn’t overlapped with the Big Four.
“It (stunk) being in your vacuum at times. I still consider myself lucky,” said Roddick, who lost to Federer in a Grand Slam final four separate times. “I got to guard Jordan. I went the distance with Ali. I pitched to Babe Ruth. I feel like I know what it must have been like to watch Picasso. I saw it all.
“I won a couple times — not a lot, but a couple,” he said. “The big four guys really (angered me) most of the time when I played them. But I’m absolutely proud to have my life and career associated with such quality individuals.”
And he said at the pre-ceremony news conference that when he woke up that morning, the first text he saw was from Federer.
“He makes it extremely hard not to like him as a person,” Roddick said.
The inductees took a tour of the museum on Friday, where they got to see their mementos alongside those of some of their heroes. Roddick took special pleasure in seeing the racket Arthur Ashe used when winning Wimbledon in 1975, or the one Rod Laver used at Forest Hills.
“It’s almost like your childhood flashes through your head,” Clijsters said. “It’s very humbling. I’m just trying to take it all in.”
Wearing a white button-down shirt embroidered with trucks that his 22-month-old son, Hank, picked out, Roddick noted that as an inductee he now gets to vote on future candidates. And he joked that he would take advantage of his new power to pay Federer back for all of the defeats.
“I might vote against him,” he said with a smile.