Roddick joins company of exalted debutants company

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The Independent Online

To the roll-call of Connors, Borg, Becker, Agassi and Sampras, we can now add Andy Roddick. Whether the 18-year-old American prodigy can scale the Grand Slam heights of those five eminent predecessors remains to be seen, but yesterday the teenager followed in their footsteps by winning on Centre Court at the first time of asking.

"I got goose bumps when I was walking out there," he said, after beating Thomas Johansson of Sweden, 7-6, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6, to set up a third-round meeting against the three-times Wimbledon finalist, Goran Ivanisevic.

"I definitely wasn't expecting my match to be on Centre," he added. "Then I saw the schedule. I couldn't even see my match at first – I was looking at the other courts. I thought: 'Where am I?' Then I looked at Centre and thought: 'All right. Cool'. The Centre Court here is probably the most prestigious place in the world to play tennis on so, to get a chance at such a young age, I really cherish that.

"I wasn't so confident coming into the grass-court season before playing in Nottingham last week. I was still kind of shady on it. But I think getting some matches in last week definitely helped. And I'm feeling a lot better on it now."

There were some things that the man who Pete Sampras has called "the future of US tennis" was not so sure about. Protocol towards the Royal Box was one. "I asked the guy on the way in: 'What do I do? Where do I walk? How do I do it'?" he said. "I didn't want to look like a fool." He didn't, either during the ritual bow – when he even had his baseball cap the right way round – or during the contest.

The first set was a tight affair until the predictable tie-break, which Roddick romped through, 7-1. His huge serve held up well and he produced a range of shots that would suggest that a comparison with Andre Agassi (made by Pat Cash) is not just groundless banter.

The second set was a breeze, and Johansson – who had won 11 consecutive matches before yesterday, including back-to-back titles on grass in Halle and Nottingham – appeared to be on the ropes. The Swede recovered to take the third with a single break, however, but he couldn't find enough to do it again. Roddick won the closing tie-break, 7-3.

"I think he was a bit too good for me today," said Johansson, who thumped 25 aces and still walked away as the loser. "I think he's going to be a top-10 player for sure in the future."

For the moment, Roddick is claiming to be unfazed by all the attention and says he feels no extra pressure. "I get stopped everywhere, but by people wanting ID," he said. "There'll be 18 guys walking in front of me and I'll get stopped. I guess they think I'm trying to sneak into the locker rooms." He won't be sneaking in for much longer.

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