New York: When injured American Andy Roddick was caught on camera watching the action at the ATP World Tour Finals, the applause that rang around the cavernous O2 Arena spoke volumes for his popularity in London.
No wonder the world number six is already setting his sights on the 2012 London Olympics when the tennis event will be staged at the All England Club, scene of Roddick's epic Wimbledon final against Roger Federer this year.
"I certainly look at that 2012 year, the prospect of playing an Olympic event on grass, it's very interesting for me," Roddick, who dropped out of the eight-man season finale because of a knee injury, told reporters.
"Certainly I feel like or at least I hope there will be many good memories still for me here in London."
Roddick lost to his Swiss nemesis Federer for the third time in a Wimbledon final in July, when he finally succumbed 16-14 in a mind-boggling fifth set, but in defeat he won the hearts of thousands of British fans for his gutsy display.
Judging by the reaction of the crowd inside the O2 when he gave a bashful wave on Monday, Roddick will be welcomed back next year with open arms although he admitted it was tough to be sitting on the sidelines watching the action unfold on a dazzling stadium court with 17,500 fans wedged in.
"To be able to come here and see just the energy that's around it, just the great event that's being put on, I definitely am envious towards those guys out there, that they're able to play and participate in this event," said Roddick after confirming a four-year contract extension with clothing sponsors Lacoste.
"The reception I got meant a lot. I certainly felt an overwhelming amount of support during the fortnight at Wimbledon. I've always felt very comfortable here in London.
"As a result of especially this year's Wimbledon, I was really looking forward to getting back here and playing again in a little bit of a different atmosphere. It's a little bit of a different dynamic here. For the fans to show they wished I was playing as well was humbling and it was very nice to hear."
Former world number one Roddick has not played since hurting his knee in Shanghai last month but said he hopes to be firing on all cylinders for the start of next season when he will aim to build on the form he showed for much of this year.
"The two weeks after Shanghai were probably about the two most boring weeks of my life. Literally was kind of on a couch," said the 27-year-old.
"The progress has been very good, especially in the last couple of weeks. I've been able to kind of run in straight lines. I got checked out... and the doctor gave me the thumbs up to resume tennis activity. That's exciting."
That Wimbledon defeat still hurts though, and Roddick said probably the only way he will ever get over it is by returning to Centre Court and winning the grasscourt grand slam.
"As far as the disappointment of Wimbledon, I don't think I'll ever be happy with the result," he said.
"I'm certainly very thankful and very gracious towards the people who it affected in a positive way. I'll always want to win that tournament. I certainly feel like maybe I won't be completely there until I actually go ahead and win it some day."
First Published: Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 09:42