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Monday, June 15, 2015

Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish Optimistic about US Men's Tennis: Eubanks, Tiafoe Receive BB&T Atlanta Open Wild Cards

Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick will play doubles together at next month's BB&T Atlanta Open, as announced during a conference call held this morning by the ATP tournament and the USTA.

Fish has dealt with an anxiety disorder for several years, and progress in his return to regular competition has been slow, but he did play in Indian Wells this year and has committed to Atlanta in singles, although he doesn't have plans beyond that.  With Roddick coming to Atlanta for an exhibition, it was natural that the two long-time friends, dating back to their junior days in Florida, would team up for doubles. They had talked about doing that for the US Open last year, but with Roddick retired he did not realize he'd need to meet the drug testing requirements well in advance, so he and Fish could not play in New York.

In the course of the conference call, Fish and Roddick were asked for their thoughts on the state of men's tennis today in the United States.

ANDY RODDICK: I've actually never heard that question before (laughter).
MARDY FISH: I can start a little bit because I'm out at Carson at our West Coast base for the USTA. I'm out here quite a bit. I've hit a lot with a lot of those guys.

We got a lot of young players coming up. By 'young' I mean obviously Jack Sock, who is 22 years old, but some of these guys are 17. No. 1 junior in the world right now, Taylor Fritz, has a big future. There's quite a lot of young guys that really can play.

I think age-wise underneath those young Aussies that are coming up in Kyrgios, some of those kids, Tomic, who are 22 and 21 years old, 20, we have some 16, 17, 18-year-olds who can play, apart from Jack.

These guys, what you don't understand, too, Donald Young, Sam Querrey to a certain extent, Sam is only 27 years old. It sounds old, and he's been out here for a long time, but it's still really young. He's got a lot of time if he can figure out and rekindle a lot of the stuff that he did early in his career.

There's a lot of guys age-wise just underneath those Aussies that everyone is talking about that are really good players that you'll hear a lot from in the next couple years.

ANDY RODDICK: I think probably for the first time in a while, we can say we're cumulatively as a tennis community in the States, there seems to be some really legitimate, authentic excitement. Not just around one or two guys, but around a handful, five or six. That's the recipe.

When Mardy and I were coming up, we trained with six or seven guys. Normally two come out of that and are top-10 players. That's what you need.

I love the way that Jack has taken ownership over his ability. It seems like there's a sense of belief. Getting that first-round draw at the French Open against Grigor Dimitrov, going out and beating him in straight sets I thought was a huge mental step that now should pay itself forward. Now it's just a matter of playing like he did at Roland Garros and doing that every week. That's how you become one of the best players in the world. He certainly has the tools.

I just learned at the beginning of this phone call the Monday night exhibition I'm playing against Frances Tiafoe, which literally scares the s**t out of me. Trust me, I went worse than, Oh, God! I'm excited to see it. The easiest way to kind of know what you're dealing with is to see it firsthand. I'm excited about it. These guys are good. I'm pumped about it. I think there is some sense of optimism. Let's not compare them to the long shadow of American tennis; let's let them make their own way.

Roddick and Fish were asked if they would be interested in coaching college tennis or helping some of the younger Americans.

ANDY RODDICK: You know what, I don't know if I'd be interested in college tennis. My brother has done such a good job, but it's such a foreign place for me. I never played college tennis. I don't know that I can relate to it.

I know where he goes, the parts of the world he goes to to recruit. It's a hustle. Frankly, it's more of a commitment than I'm willing to put forward maybe ever again.

I have worked with some of the young USTA guys. They've sent guys in for three or four days. I've always been available for those guys. I'm just glad that I'm getting taken up on it.

I think you don't go through a career in U.S. tennis and not want to pay it forward and see the success of the next generation. I'm happy to be involved in that in some way if I can going forward.

MARDY FISH: Yeah, it's funny, I owe a lot to the USTA sort of for my second career, if you will, after 2009. They allowed sort of an old, broken-down player that wasn't working as hard as maybe he could have, didn't reach the potential maybe he could have, and they still let me take a coach with me in David Nainkin and share him with Sam Querrey. I always remember that. Obviously it paid off for me and hopefully for them. But I always feel indebted to them because of that.

I always enjoy helping, asking questions about how guys are doing when I'm on the court practicing with them. It's a lot of fun to sort of give some of the knowledge that you've learned over the years.

The Atlanta tournament's field was announced today and in addition to Fish, John Isner, Jack Sock, Donald Young and Tim Smyczek are Americans scheduled to compete.

The two wild cards announced today are Frances Tiafoe, who received a qualifying wild card in Atlanta last year, and Georgia Tech rising sophomore Christopher Eubanks.  You can read more about Georgia Tech's connection to the tournament here.

The complete transcript of the conference call can be found here.