Roddick Masters the Possibilities

From Associated Press

Andy Roddick is rather busy these days.

There's the "Saturday Night Live" hosting gig. The "Got Milk?" ad. The upcoming reality television show.

Oh, yes, and then there's the little matter of trying to finish 2003 at No. 1 in the ATP Tour rankings.

To do that, Roddick must fare better than French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero and Wimbledon champion Roger Federer at the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup, which starts Monday.

"Even though I've accomplished a lot of my goals this year, I'm still in the hunt for No. 1," Roddick says. "That's definitely a big motivation for me."

He moved atop the rankings for the first time by passing Ferrero a week ago, about two months after another career-defining accomplishment: winning the U.S. Open.

That Grand Slam breakthrough brought two immediate consequences. It eased the pressure -- "No more, 'What's it feel like to be the future of American tennis?"' Roddick pronounced right after beating Ferrero in the final at Flushing Meadows -- and it ratcheted up the off-court commitments.

"His life's changed from winning the Open -- the infringements on his time, people wanting a lot more from him," Coach Brad Gilbert says. "He's not 'Andy Roddick the kid' anymore, he's 'Andy Roddick the U.S. Open champion.' But he's a great kid, and he's handling it very well."

It's Gilbert who receives much of the credit for helping Roddick make the move from very good player to great one. They paired up in early June, right after Roddick's first-round loss at the French Open, and the impact is clear.

Roddick went 25-11 (a .694 winning percentage) before hiring Gilbert, 45-6 (.882) after. He won one title in 2003 without Gilbert, five with him.

"He's taught me how to win," Roddick says, then pauses. "He's taught me how to go about it when you're not having your best day. When things aren't going your way, how to handle it better. I mean, I was always pretty good at fighting. And I always tried my best; I wouldn't tank matches. But he just taught me how to go about it -- keep fighting in a calmer way."

That new mind-set ought to help during the coming week. While most tournaments give players a chance to face inexperienced or mediocre opponents in the early rounds, the Tennis Masters Cup brings together only the best.

The top eight men in the rankings participate, split into two groups for round-robin play.

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