London: The reception given to Andy Roddick when he steps out to play at Wimbledon next week will speak volumes for the affection in which he is held at the scene of one of his, and the sport`s, greatest near-misses.
The gritty American was public enemy number one at the All England Club last year when he dashed British hopes of a first men`s winner since 1936 by ousting Andy Murray in the semi-finals at the All England Club.
But that quickly became a distant memory when Roddick got stuck into an epic five-set final against Roger Federer, before going down 16-14 in the fifth set.
While the Swiss basked in the glory of a record 15th grand slam title, Roddick slumped into his chair wondering if the defeat, his third in three finals against Federer, was his last chance of lifting the game`s greatest grasscourt title.
The 27-year-old Roddick, whose realistic assessment of his own limitations endears him to the press and public alike, knows what he has achieved at Wimbledon will be meaningless come the tournament`s start on Monday.
"I`m always anxious going into Wimbledon. Last year is last year," the American world number seven said.
"You know, I don`t go in with any sense of entitlement or anything like that. I`m excited to get onto a surface that I actually feel that I can impose my game on a little bit more."
With his whiplash, wrist-snapping serve, much-improved physical fitness and shrewd shot placement on the skidding grass surface he is always a dangerman at Wimbledon, and it is a surface where he feels a comfort advantage over his rivals.
"I think grass probably has the least amount of guys who are really well-versed in the little things about this surface, the intangibles of a surface.”
"That`s probably chalked up to the fact that there`s not much play on it, so it`s only natural, I guess."
His love of playing on grass dates back to his early years when as an eight-year-old he sneaked into a local club in Austin, Texas to watch the likes of Kevin Curren and Richey Reneberg play -- until the local pro would `kick me off`.
"On grass, I don`t feel like there`s that many holes (in my game). I feel like my game automatically kind of translates well to that surface.”
"My chip stays down. My backhand goes through the court a little bit. Obviously my serve gets a little bit better. My returns don`t get any worse on grass, and some people`s do.”
"It`s a more comfortable feeling. With that comes a sense of confidence, I guess."