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tv   Overheard With Evan Smith  PBS  March 16, 2016 5:30am-6:01am PDT

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>> funding for "overheard" with evan smith is provided in part by mfi foundation, improving the quality of life within our community. and from the texas board of legal specialization, board certified attorneys in your community. experienced, respected, and tested. also by hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy. and by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation. and viewers like you. thank you. >> i'm evan smith. a dozen years ago he was the number one men's tennis player in the world, the last american male to hold that title and the last to win a grand slam singles event. today he's a philanthropist whose namesake foundation is celebrating its 15th anniversary. he's andy roddick, this is "overheard." [applause]. >> actually, there are not two sides to every issue. >> so i guess we can't fire him now. i guess we can't fire him now. the night that i win the emmy.
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>> being on the supreme court was an improbable dream. >> it's hard work and it's controversial. >> without information there is no freedom and it's journalists who provide that information. >> window rolls down and this guy says, hey, he goes to 11:00. [laughter]. >> andy roddick, welcome. >> thank you very much. >> nice to see you. 15 years of this foundation. >> yeah. >> it's something to be proud of. >> it is. it's crazy. you know, one of the things about our sport is you -- the lineage as far as people going out for causes and starts with arthur ashe, billie jean king, andre agassi. what roger federer is going with unicef now. >> yep. >> the culture of tennis and giving back is great. >> and this is not just a letterhead for them or for you where you just lend your name and then go off. those folks, very involved, and you're very involved, specifically, in this foundation. >> yeah. i mean, luckily it's kind of a mixture of things that have gone
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right. being from the culture of tennis, being from austin, texas, which is growing, prospering. >> right. >> it's a place that wants to give -- >> and yet there are kids who need a little bit over and above what they're getting. >> well, and that's one of our things is everyone hears about austin and all the great things that are happening, but there are still kids that need, that want to learn, that want to get better. we focus on out of school time, so summer learning and after school programs. >> and these are low socioeconomic kids from lower income families. >> yes. >> and you're trying to augment what they're getting during the school year. mental and physical wellness. >> well, i don't think the school system should have to do it all alone. i think there is a space for people to help. so when we looked at the numbers -- and, first of all, i want to do everything andre agassi did, always. >> always. follow in his -- yeah. are you going to shave your head? >> well, i might have to soon. might not be a choice. [laughter]. >> nice pivot. >> thank you. but when i was 17, he was a
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mentor to me and we were on -- going to a practice week one time and he said, okay, kid, if you have some questions, ask me. i said, all right. i asked a whole bunch of stuff like, you know, is brooke shields a good kisser and other stuff like that. and i got to some serious stuff, you know, what's your biggest regret? knowing andre's history and how far he's come from his lowest moments. he said i didn't start my foundation early enough. that hit home with me. we did a tennis event in a parking lot when i was 17 and started kind of fund raising as an umbrella organization and now we have our own foundation-run programs. >> but if i do the math, so 15th anniversary, today is 2015 as we sit here. go back, it was 2000 that you started the foundation. 2000 is when you turned pro. >> yeah. >> right? so you actually didn't wait until you became something bigger. you said the minute you turn pro, i'm going to go ahead and channel my energy into this. >> i don't even know that it was turning pro. it's getting your friends together. listen, the first one was a tennis clinic in a parking lot. we raised a couple thousand
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dollars. and i wasn't much older than a lot of the kids we were helping, so it seemed, you know, disadvantaged youth was a way to go. i had a very frank conversation. so for a long time -- and we've done a good job of raising funds. we can always use more. the more we can raise the faster we can expand and kind of repeat the program that we've run here in austin. but, you know, it was a weird transition. i had a friend who was a c.e.o. of our foundation named jeff lau. and he was my oldest friend. we've known each other since we were 7. >> yep. >> it was a weird moment and he said, listen, this model of fund raising and giving it out to various charities and kind of just writing a check, he goes as soon as you stop playing that model is done, no one's going to care and you got to do something. you got to kind of change the course of it. at that moment -- that was 2011 -- i thought i had three or four years. turns out i didn't. >> had about one. >> i had one year. >> right. >> but, you know -- >> and his point was that when
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you stop becoming a celebrity you stop becoming a magnet for giving. >> there needs to be something permanent. >> right. >> there needs to be something that's constant that you can point to, you know, where you ned to build up your credibility and the trust a little bit while you're still playing so that it can live on past you. >> so the foundation has become both a grant-making organization and it also administers its own programs. and the main program that you administer right now is at pecan springs elementary here in austin. >> yes. >> you're serving somewhere under 100, maybe 80 or 90 -- >> yes, exactly. >> -- kids over a five or six-week program. >> yes. >> and it's some academic and it's some sports. >> i don't know that we're trying to repeat what they've learned during the school year. a lot of it is team building, so everything is done in groups today. it's -- >> and you were out there with the kids -- >> yeah. >> let's acknowledge. >> yeah, it's -- the theme this year is around the world, so we're learning about different parts of the world. so today was australia. so we're doing, you know, smoothies and aussie rules football and basically just learning about different cultures. we're doing aboriginal art and so it's basically just exposing them to stuff that maybe they
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wouldn't be exposed to before and teaching them to kind of work together. >> yeah, and millions of dollars have gone out the door over these 15 years from your organization to deserving kids and to deserving grantees. >> yes. >> well, that's pretty good. >> well -- >> you could spend your time a lot of other ways but you've chosen to do this, that's good. >> it is good. >> take the win. >> thank you. it is good. it will be better. you know, we're by no means a finished product but we're proud of that we've done so far. >> so you're focused on these kids at this point in their lives. what was your life like at that point? you were in nebraska from birth but then you came to austin at age 4. >> 4, yeah. >> you were obviously a great tennis player as a kid, the story is legend. >> yeah. >> but you had opportunities that probably these kids don't have. yet tell us what your childhood was like. at that age, what were you like? >> well, i was lucky. my oldest brother -- when my parents got married they lived in a mobile home for a long time. my oldest brother didn't have the opportunities that i had. he's 17 years older, so by the
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time i came around i had a lot of opportunities. >> he was a tennis player. >> he was a diver. i have a middle brother who is also a tennis player. >> lawrence -- >> lawrence is the diver. john is my middle brother. >> lawrence never played tennis. >> he did not play tennis. >> right. >> but i certainly realized -- you realize it more as you go on and you wish you would have expressed more gratitude about the opportunities your parents provide you. >> yeah. >> i don't pretend to know what these kids are dealing with. i don't know what they're up against, but i'm sure as hell going to try to help along the way and give them the opportunities that i had. >> your parents moved you at age 11 to florida. >> well, i was just kind of -- you know, you want to do what your older brother does. >> right. >> so my older brother john played tennis and he was very good. he was the top couple of kids in the world in junior tennis. and so they moved to florida for them and then all of a sudden it was basically said we could be with him. there are very good junior programs here for tennis now in austin. at that point -- >> but at that point you had to go somewhere else. >> there weren't as many good ones, so we went there for him. we were just going to be there with him while he finished high school and i then i started playing a bunch and ten years later we finally came back to austin.
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>> was there any question in your mind at that age that you wanted to do this? >> no, i mean i think every kid wants to, you know, do that, yeah. >> well every kid wants to be an astronaut or a cowboy, but it doesn't happen. not every kid has the skills at being an astronaut or being a cowboy that you had at being a tennis player. for you, if you had said i want to do this, you actually had the possibility of doing it. >> possibility. but, you know, i don't want to say just because you're good at 11 that it's a guarantee that you're going to make it, you know. for every person who does get to play tennis for a living, you know, there are a lot of kids whose families sacrificed a lot and it doesn't always work out that way. which is, you know, a lot of people i knew, a lot of the kids from the european federations weren't in school from the time they were 14 or 15. so i remember when i signed my first endorsement deal with reebok i had about three months left in high school and i had decided i was going to tell my mom, that's it. i don't really have to go to school now. >> here it is. pay dirt, right? that's it. >> she had other ideas. [laughter].
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>> yeah. she was right. >> she was right. >> well the problem with, as you say, a lot of kids come in the front end of the funnel, not so many come out the back end. >> sure. >> and the kids who go in the front end sometimes think, well, i don't have to do anything now because i've got this. >> you might not have to do anything but you should plan as if you might have to. >> always have a backup plan. >> i think so, yeah. >> so what was your back up plan at that point? >> well, one was i had to get through high school and then i knew i had -- you know, luckily i had that deal so i could afford to travel. >> right. >> my parents were fantastic, because when we were deciding whether or not i was going to go pro or go to college, they said, listen, if you go and it doesn't work out we'd still like to send you to college, so at least give yourself a chance. >> right. >> and that was lucky for me. that was a benefit that i had that not a lot of people have, so that helped as far as some of the pressure. >> i was tempted to ask you what kind of sports parents your parents were because the continuum, right? you could be very, very lucky or you could have just absolutely awful sports parents whether you know it at the time or not. >> sure. >> it sounds like yours were pretty much down here. they were in the good place.
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>> they were in a good place but it was, you know, it's different. my dad was, you know, military background, very, very, very tough. >> so like "great santini" military tough? >> yeah, i mean but he was very tough. so if you decide you want to do this, do you want to go after it and do you want to be -- and i was up at 5:30 and you kind of do it all day and then it's homework and it's to bed and you do that five or six days a week and -- >> did you get sick of it? >> -- enjoy your sunday. every 12-year-old gets sick of that at some point. >> 12 years old? >> yeah, sure, sure. but looking at it now i'm thankful for it. you know, and it was never a thing where you have to do it. it's your choice. if you decide to do it, let's do it as well as we can. >> wouldn't have gotten to where you were had you not done it that way. >> i don't think so, especially in an individual sport. you know, it's a little bit different. you have to kind of be self-motivated. i always enjoyed it. i always liked it. did i like it every single wednesday? no, but by thursday i wanted to be back out there. >> is that right? >> yeah, so it wasn't -- i'm glad that my parents were like that. they gave me every opportunity
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and said but you're going to -- you know, it's not going to be kind of a lackadaisical attempt at an opportunity. >> so you went in as a junior player and you were quite good. but before you were quite good you actually considered whether you wanted to keep going, right? was there some question in your mind at that point that you wanted to keep going? >> well, i had the insurance policy. i knew i was good enough to go to the school of my choice on scholarship, or a school on scholarship. so that was a nice thing to have at that age. i remember playing junior wimbledon in '99 and i lost first round. coincidentally, the guy's name was wayne wong from hong kong. [laughter]. >> it's easy to remember. >> it was. that's how i remember it to this day. i don't remember anyone i played, but i lost to wayne wong from hong kong and i just had to stay over there until our whole team came back and my coach wanted me to practice the next day and i was done with it. so i remember back behind the dorms where you stay at junior wimbledon all my rackets, into
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the floor. so i actually came back -- >> tossed them. >> i came back to the states with no rackets. and at that point i had said i probably don't -- i'm probably not good enough to play professional tennis but maybe i'll take the next couple of months off before i start thinking about schools. >> and, in fact, you came back from that. >> apparently you make some rash decisions when you're 16 and 17 years old. >> shock. shock of shocks. so you rose to be number one among juniors, went pro in 2000. and by 2003, 12 years ago as we sit here today, you went to number one. number one for about nine months? >> i think it was less than that. it was like a long cup of coffee. >> i've had nine-month cups of coffee. that's okay. but it was a period of time in which you, you know, you not only won the u.s. open but you have that. they can never take that away from you that you were number one, right? and then you stayed in the top five for a few years, right? >> yeah, i mean -- yeah. i got there, which is a nice thing. it's humbling sometimes because
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you get included in a lot of these dinners where they try to bring back the former. and in tennis to finish year number one is even a bigger thing than touching it during the season, you know, to actually have the totality of a year. and so sometimes -- i remember a couple of years ago they had put together, you know, the 40-year anniversary of the rankings or open air or whatever, and so they had all the number ones in one room. >> right. >> and i felt out of place. i mean those -- >> you looked to your left, looked to your right. >> oh my gosh. i mean it's borg and it's mcenroe, it's connors, it's agassi, it's sampras, it's roger, it's rafa, and i'm going -- i felt like i should be serving them drinks or something. >> right, yeah. but at least in a couple of cases these are people who you beat. you may not have beat them very often but you at least beat them. >> definitely did not beat them often but -- >> right. >> -- every once in a while. >> i'm looking at the top five now. we'll talk about wimbledon in a second. as we sit here wimbledon is just beginning and the top five seeds in wimbledon correspond to the top five right now in the atp. >> yeah. >> so number one, djokovic. you beat djokovic, right? >> well that's one of the
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reasons i retired because i retired with a winning record against novak, so -- >> that's it. [laughter]. >> i figured -- >> nobody can take that away from you, right? that's it. [applause]. >> i figured that was time to go. i won't tell you what the blood bath was like the last two times i played him but -- >> nope. just remember the good times. that's it. >> 5-4. >> but you beat him. so number two right now is federer. you all have a legendary rivalry. >> well legendary's kind. >> he won -- >> he graciously beat the crap out of me for a decade is pretty much. >> you won three, four, times. >> a couple. >> but you have that, right? >> yeah. >> andy murray is third. you beat andy murray, right? >> yeah. >> right? so how can you think i'm not worthy if you've got the top three today. this is a dozen years after you were number one, you beat those guys. >> well, you know, the '98 bulls lost ten games that season. doesn't mean any of those teams were better than them throughout the totality of the season. >> right. >> on that night they felt good about themselves. >> why are you the last american number one? what happened? why does tennis hate freedom and liberty and all the good things? [laughter].
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>> well, i don't know that it does. you know, it is cyclical. >> and i guess what happened to us maybe is the better and more proper way to ask that question. >> so i always -- when i have the time to explain this scenario which, unfortunately -- >> please, it's pbs. all we have is time. [laughter]. >> unfortunately when i'm doing interviews or a press conference it's normally a quicker solution, but i think that perspective is important. france, who is generally considered a very, very strong tennis nation hasn't had a grand slam winner since 1983 with yannick noah. you know, obviously you think of england you think of wimbledon, you think of the tradition. they hadn't won since the -- i think it was the '30s, and fred perry, before andy murray won in 2013. >> right. that's why andy murray is such a big deal, right? >> well, i mean, yeah. to win there, i mean, the microscope that's on him during that tournament -- >> oh, right. >> -- is something i've never seen before. i beat him in the 2009 semifinals and i was like the guy who shot bambi. [laughter]. >> is that right? you needed a police escort to
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get out of the country, right. [laughter]. >> if you put in perspective -- i think american tennis has created such a long shadow. i mean, if you look at how spoiled we were from the '60s starting with arthur to stan smith to -- and i always leave people out somehow, that's how many great champions we've had. >> connors, mcenroe. >> connors, mcenroe, agassi, sampras, chang. jim courier was number one in the world, won four grand slams and he hardly gets mentioned. >> hardly ever gets mentioned. >> and he's one of the best of all time. >> right. >> you know, the good news is my shadow's not quite as long so they shouldn't be feeling so much pressure, but it is cyclical. there are a really good group of 17 and 18-year-olds coming up. i would equate it to a really strong farm system in baseball. >> yeah. >> you probably won't know the names for another couple of years. >> well, who's the derek jeter? i'm going to go exactly right there. >> no. no. >> tell me one person. >> no, because i hate doing it because then you're having a 17-year-old kid that has to deal with it. i will never -- >> you're putting the pressure on that kid.
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>> i was talking to the powers that be at the usta and i said never refer to them by one name. not one kid has to carry this burden. >> yeah. >> refer to them -- i don't -- you can make a fun name for the group of them, and that's fine, but they need -- one of them needs to start winning. this next guy needs to be a little jealous. he needs to start winning. that's the way it's happened with andre's group and those guys with our group, to a lesser extent. with myself and mardy fish. you know, he was a top ten player also. we used to hit at an apartment complex in florida and there were six or seven really talented juniors. >> yeah. >> two come out of our top ten, two others are on tour, a couple play divisional, but there needs to be a healthy jealousy. and i think there is a really good group of five or six guys -- >> yeah. >> and i won't single one of them out. i won't single one of them out. >> as far as it goes, you're optimistic. >> we're better -- as far as prospects go, we're as good as we've been in a decade. >> do you think djokovic is a deserving number one? >> oh, god, yeah. >> do you think federer is deserving to still be in this tie?
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i mean, you played federer all those years ago. >> yeah. >> do you think these guys are worthy? this ranking system is good. you think that's it. >> oh, the system's great. i mean, the thing about novak, and i'll tell anybody who will listen, is the way he's gone about his career and the slam totals. i mean, he's up at, what, eight or nine now? he's up at an insane number. >> so many, right. >> to give it some context, where he's at in trying to complete the career slam at nine slams, jimmy connors had eight grand slams, john mcenroe had seven, agassi had eight. you know, these iconic names from throughout our sport. >> yeah. >> novak has more slams than they do right now. it's just that he's playing in the same generation as rafa and roger. i mean, you're watching four of the best players of all time right now and all we do is complain about what we don't have in tennis, it's insane. >> right. but the reality is they're all -- any one of those guys is as good as anybody who has come before. >> oh, i mean roger has more slams than anybody. i mean, 17 slams. you know, rafa's, he's struggling now a little bit more than he's used to, but 14 slams is as many as pete. i mean, without roger he's tied
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for the all-time slams record. i mean, we're watching the greatest players in history right now. >> you won the u.s. open but then you were in the finals in wimbledon three times? >> three times. >> lost each of the three times to federer. >> yeah, batting a thousand. >> batting a thousand with federer. do you replay that in your mind and think if i had only done this? i mean, as all of us who are kind of lousy weekend tennis players do -- >> sure. >> that shot, this shot, that serve. if i had only done this differently it might have turned out differently? >> i don't. >> didn't at the time and don't now? >> no. i mean, frankly speaking there's a massive talent divide between roger and myself. he's -- the racket makes sense to him. you know, it just looks right in his hand. he has options, which i never had. you know, i had to kind of go serve, i had to play to strengths and try to do it. the '09 final, which is the one i was 16-14 in the fifth, the last one that i lost that was real close and had a real shot at it. i don't know that i could have executed my game plan better.
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you know, there's a shot you miss but -- >> yep. >> if you hit the shot and you miss it by an inch you're still executing well. >> right. >> i wish i had it. you know, when i go back to wimbledon and walk through, i would love to walk through as a wimbledon champion, more than anything. i understand the ramifications. i understand the way that changes the perception of me in the history of tennis from being two points away -- >> yeah. >> and doing it and not doing it. wimbledon is still just the most magical place for a tennis player. >> do you miss playing professionally? >> yeah, but not enough. the moments -- i feel like i got it right when i stopped, and a lot of people think i stopped too soon. but the moment i stopped believing that i could win a slam and go through the army of players that you just mentioned. >> yeah. >> you know, when you're going to have to go through four, with an average shoulder at that point in my career. >> you had a bunch of injuries in the last couple of years. >> yeah, i mean everyone has injuries.
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but when i stopped thinking i could win, you know, i didn't just want to exist on tour. there were other things that i wanted to do in my life, foundation. being on the tennis tour is a very, very, very selfish existence. >> a lot of travel. >> i wanted to be with my wife, you know, so there's a lot of things that went into the decision, but i miss it. when i see the first day of wimbledon. wimbledon started today. >> as we sit here today, wimbledon's first day. >> exactly. that's always like, gosh, i just want to go play. and i went and hit this morning just because i'm -- you're so pumped up to watch it. >> antsy, right, yeah. >> but there hasn't been a moment where i've been even close to going back to it. >> and, again, as we hit here, it starts today, but you're going to actually be a commentator for the bbc coverage of wimbledon this year. it's not something you like to do. >> well, no. it's not something i've done. you know, i've worked -- since i stopped i work at fox sports 1, our live nightly sports highlights show. i've worn a lot of different
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hats on that show. >> but you haven't been clamoring to do the, essentially, play-by-play or color the way, say, troy aikman after he retired has become a fixture of football broadcasts. >> i haven't, no. i've done a lot of broadcasting, not once on tennis yet. but doing the bbc and the opportunity they've given me to go to the second week and cover quarter semis and finals. so the third match i ever do will be the final of wimbledon for the host broadcast. >> that's pretty good. >> it's -- as someone who owes a lot to tennis in their life, the prestige of that job was too much for me to not do. and i'm really looking forward to it. >> and then you're going to come back and then in a couple of weeks you're actually going to get back on the court with mardy fish -- >> yeah. >> and you're going to play doubles. >> in the atlanta tour event next month, yeah. >> why? [laughter]. >> that's a good question. >> i mean, i'm really intrigued about this because i know you're
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doing it as much as for mardy as you are for you, right? >> yeah, well mardy fish is a -- >> childhood friend. >> childhood friend, was a great, great -- still is a great tennis player. at the height of his career, when he was six or seven in the world, developed an anxiety disorder. we never got that chance to play the last, you know, one last time. he's going to try to make a go of it this summer and he played an event earlier this year, got through it. he kind of wants to exercise the demons a little bit. a lot of -- it happened at the same u.s. open i retired at, he had to withdraw against roger in the fourth round. it's been a process for him and i'm just so proud that he's trying to get back. you know, we had talked about playing doubles last year at the u.s. open and we couldn't. and so we're going to do it this year. we're going to try to do it one last time. we never got the chance to, kind of, play one last time and if i can be there and help him -- doubles is fine, but even help him through his singles matches just by being there and watching and kind of adding my two cents. >> yeah.
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>> and all the while understanding, i guess, his journey back. i think that will help him and, you know, i get to play a little tennis, so it's all good. >> you're not a big fan of doubles. >> no, i'm just not very good at it. [laughter]. >> you're not the only one that's not very good at it. it's okay. you're forgiven. >> thank you. >> but you haven't played though you said to me -- you haven't hit in six weeks? >> i played a lot this -- earlier this year on the powershares series, which is, you know, with courier and mac -- >> right. >> -- and, you know, we go city to city. >> but you're a little rusty-ish. >> yeah. i should be getting it back. i've been working out, but i hit tennis balls today for the first time in six weeks so i had about a month to get good at tennis again. >> yeah. and any chance this is going to reignite something in you and you're going to think, you know, i still got some time, i'm relatively young. i might be able to get back out there. even me at my worst i'm still better than a lot of other people. >> i have a pretty fair, i guess, gauge or understanding of where i think i'd be in the landscape of tennis right now.
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i know i can still play a little bit. sacrificing 40 weeks a year of my life -- >> well, you have a baby coming. >> with a baby coming. i don't know that that's something that i can rationalize doing. i'm pretty happy with where i'm at. >> yeah. well, you know what? good for you. >> thank you. >> all these years later you ought to be in a good place. you deserve to be in a good place and the foundation is doing well, so congratulations on that. >> i appreciate it, thank you. >> and everything else. >> thank you very much. >> andy roddick. thank you. >> thank you for having me. [applause]. >> we'd love to have you join us in the studio. visit our web site at to find invitations to interviews, q&as with our audience and guests, and an archive of past episodes. >> u.s. open, for me, has more personal significance from childhood just because my parents would, you know, save up and as a birthday present a couple of times i got to go to the u.s. open. when i was 9 years old, that was when jimmy connors made his run in 1991, and i was there
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sneaking in. i had a grounds pass but i got into the stadium every day. >> funding for "overheard" with evan smith is provided in part by mfi foundation, improving the quality of life within our community. and from the texas board of legal specialization, board certified attorneys in your community. experienced, respected, and tested. also by hillco partners, texas government affairs consultancy and its global healthcare consulting business unit, hillco health. and by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation. and viewers like you. thank you.
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