IRVINE — Andy Roddick brought in by far the biggest home crowd of the season so far for the Orange County Breakers on Saturday night.
Roddick, the former World No. 1 who retired from the pro tour last September, was playing his sixth Mylan World Team Tennis match in six nights. It seemed like a lot for Roddick. He said in a prematch press conference that he hadn't hit the ball too much in the last few months.
"I work out all the time," Roddick said. "I just haven't been hitting tennis balls."
"So you're still in shape?" a reporter asked, giving Roddick a chance to show off some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.
"Yeah, round is a shape," Roddick quipped. "I guess you're always in a shape of some sort."
Some four hours later, Roddick was involved in an intense men's singles match with the Orange County Breakers' Steve Johnson. You could say it was the past against the future of American men's tennis.
The local guy stole the show.
Johnson won both the set over Roddick and the ensuing super tiebreaker, helping the Breakers pull out an exciting 20-19 victory at Bren Events Center.
"Andy's a special player," said Johnson, the Orange High graduate, who had lost to Roddick in a tiebreaker on the road on Friday night. "What he's done for American tennis is pretty special. It's an honor, really, just to be on the same court playing against him. It was a pleasure just to be out there. Really, it's almost hard to describe what he did for 10 years, being the top American."
It was a big victory for the Breakers (3-3), who pulled within a match of first-place Springfield (4-2) in the Western Conference. And it was a team effort on a night where both Roddick and Billie Jean King were in the house.
King took off soon after the match started on a flight to Boston. She didn't get a chance to see the Breakers' thrilling comeback from a 15-9 deficit. It started when Coco Vandeweghe defeated Vania King, 5-2, in women's singles in the fourth set of the night. Vandeweghe leads the league in women's singles, with a 28-19 games record this season.
Johnson played huge at the start of his set with Roddick, jumping out to a 3-0 games lead to tie the match at 17-all. He won the first 10 points of the set.
When it went to the super tiebreaker Johnson also played big, taking a 3-1 lead. But Roddick used two aces to tie the score. Roddick still has the ability to fire the big serve. Before the match he was asked if he could still serve it 130 miles per hour.
"130 kilometers [per hour]," he said. "Confidently, 130 kilometers."
Johnson, however, was unfazed in the super tiebreaker. He won three straight points for a 6-3 lead. He converted his second match point, using a big serve to set up a forehand winner.
"He's a superstar, a true professional already," Breakers Coach Trevor Kronemann said of Johnson, the two-time NCAA singles champion at USC who is still just 22 years old.
The Lasers won the first three sets of the night. They got off to a good start in women's doubles, where Vania King and Alisa Kleybanova defeated Orange County's Vandeweghe and Maria Elena Camerin, 5-1.
Springfield took the next two sets in tiebreakers. Jean-Julien Rojer and Kleybanova defeated Camerin and Treat Huey, 5-4, and 5-1 in the 'breaker. In men's doubles, Roddick and Rojer topped Huey and Steve Johnson, 5-4, and 5-2 in the 'breaker.
Springfield had a big 15-9 lead. But the Breakers started clawing back, with the help of Vandeweghe.
Orange County stays at home for their next two matches, against Sacramento on Monday and against Texas on Tuesday. The latter match will feature the No. 1 doubles team in the world and recent Wimbledon champion, Bob and Mike Bryan.
"Finally we get a night where we don't have to wake up at 6 in the morning and travel," Johnson said. "We're going to enjoy the sleep, I think."