Andy Roddick and Jesse Witten occasionally swapped notes as they played their singles set on Tuesday, each confessing to being a little short on wind.
That didn’t prevent Roddick from loudly scolding and trash-talking the indifferent New York Sportimes fans at SEFCU Arena when “Who Let the Dogs Out” blasted over the PA:
“That is the weakest bark … embarrassing …
“Apparently NOBODY let the dogs out!”
That drew a hearty laugh from the suddenly alert crowd of about 1,200, and demonstrated exactly why Roddick is a perfect fit for World TeamTennis.
The former world No. 1 in 2003, when he won the U.S. Open, Roddick retired after last year’s U.S. Open and now wears a variety of hats for his sport, including as a WTT part-owner and a player for the Springfield Lasers.
The Sportimes (1-2) defeated the Lasers
(1-2), 22-21, when New York’s Kveta Peschke and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, recent semifinalists at Wimbledon, pulled out the final set against Vania King and Alisa Kleybanova, 5-3.
The highlight, though, was Roddick’s presence — he’s playing five matches in five nights — even as he dropped his set to Witten, 5-4, in the third set.
“This format has to differentiate itself in some way, and the way they keep score, and the sudden-death point at the end, we have to be an interactive league,” Roddick said. “The fans have to have an experience, and we need to remember that.”
Besides being exposed to some of Roddick’s trademark on-court vinegar, albeit playfully, the fans got to see flashes of his old self, even though he has been hampered by a shoulder injury and has been more involved in TV work and his charitable foundation than actual match play.
He blasted some big aces against Witten, but ultimately succumbed to a sharp forehand winner down the line by his long-time associate on the 23rd stroke of the longest rally of the set.
“I remember some of them [shots]. It was quite the rally to finish a match,” Roddick said. “Something about me, New York and drama, I don’t know. But it was fun. I’ve known Jesse since, gosh, I’ve got to think we’ve been playing since we were 10 years old. So it’s fun, and it’s nice to be back out here.”
“I don’t really remember most of it, it seemed like it just kept going on,” Witten said of his set-winning point. “We were having close points every point, and it was a matter of who got tired first. We were both a little run down. He was telling me that he was having trouble catching his breath. But it was fun to play. We’ve known each other since we were kids.”
Despite the laid-back format and the fact that the WTT season falls during a relative lull between majors on the tour schedule, the competitive nature of the players still showed itself.
Roddick swatted a few balls in disgust after missed shots, and Witten spat out an expletive that rattled off the white ceiling beams of SEFCU.
Roddick held serve to tie their singles set at 4-4, then floated a nice serve-and-volley backhand drop shot for a winner to send the last game into a sudden-death point that Witten won after the protracted rally.
“It’s always competitive. That’s how we’re brought up,” Roddick said. “I had a good time tonight.
“The guy strikes the ball great, and he always has since he was kid. I thought he served better than he normally does.”
“I took a little slower route [to the pros],” Witten said. “I bloomed a little late and went to college. But he’s an ambassador. He’s one of the best players of all time, and he carries himself well, win, lose or whatever. That’s why he is who he is.”
Roddick played the first set, men’s doubles, with Jean-Julien Rojer, and defeated Witten and Robert Kendrick, 5-4.
The Lasers men’s doubles team opened with a 4-1 lead before hanging on to win 5-4, not surrendering a point in the tiebreaker.
King beat Groenefeld, 5-3, in the fourth set to give the Lasers an 18-17 lead, but the Sportimes pulled it out behind their women’s doubles.
The Sportimes are still trying to drum up a marquee player to replace Sloane Stephens for next Tuesday’s home match at SEFCU.
Stephens pulled out of WTT for the season after aggravating an abdominal tear.
Stephens was also supposed to make some public appearances in Albany before her match, including a clinic, but she isn’t expected to make the trip in light of the injury. …
The Washington Kastles won on Monday to push their consecutive win mark to 33 matches, and extended it to 34 with a victory over Boston on Tuesday.
The Sportimes’ next home match is Friday against Philadelphia.
New York Sportimes 22,
Springfield Lasers 21
Men’s doubles: Andy Roddick/Jean-Julien Rojer (S) def. Robert Kendrick/Jesse Witten, 5-4. Mixed doubles: Witten (subbed for Kendrick at 2-3)/Kveta Peschke (NY) def. Rojer/Alisa Kleybanova, 5-4. Men’s singles: Witten (NY) def. Roddick, 5-4. Women’s singles: Vania King (S) def. Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 5-3. Women’s doubles: Groenefeld/Peschke (NY) def. Kleybanova/King, 5-3.