When he's home in Austin, Texas, tennis great Andy Roddick is only 15 minutes away from his own personal hell. But despite the torture he puts himself through there, the 24-year-old can’t seem to stay away from the spot, which he lovingly refers to as “the Basin.” It’s no wonder—the place, a wilderness preserve in Texas hill country, is a marvel of threatening rocks and big sky—but it’s also where Roddick runs through some of the most hardcore, grueling training sessions imaginable. It’s here, over miles and miles of wood- land trails and stony paths, where he encounters perhaps his
greatest adversary ever: himself.
“Oh, I kill myself there, for sure,” says Roddick of the 227-acre Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. “I’m running up and down mountains and jogging on uneven downhill trails with a bunch of rocks, so I have to be careful, but it also creates the need for small, adjustment steps, and I’ve found that it’s actually great practice for tennis footwork. The last incline is a three-minute run, and that’ll get you pretty good.”
Roddick is speaking to MF from Florida, where he’s being shuttled by car from Miami to Boca Raton. Yesterday, his hamstring tightened during a match, forcing an early exit from the Sony Ericsson Open. Now he’s about to receive treatment and begin preparations for the Davis Cup. After that, he’ll return to the Basin, where his training begins—and ends. “It’s gorgeous. I love it there,” he says. “That’s where you’ll find me most afternoons when I’m home, dripping in sweat, especially in the Austin summer.”
In addition to providing cardio benefits, the Basin works Roddick’s powerful legs, the two main tools behind his uniquely devastating weapon: a serve that’s been clocked at 155 mph—tops among any tennis player, ever.
“Andy’s got really good range of motion and external rotation,” says Doug Spreen, Roddick’s athletic trainer. “If you freeze-frame his serve, where the elbow is up and the hand is going backward, that’s his range of motion. He can get that racket a bit farther back than a lot of guys, and if you can take the racket farther back, you can generate more forward speed, because you have more time to [generate it]. That range of motion is God-given talent, but he’s also done the hard work to maximize his natural ability.”
Roddick’s skill potential was recognized when he was just 17; he was then indoctrinated into a strict training program. “When we realized I was going to be making a living with my arm,” says Roddick, the No. 3–ranked player in the world as of press time, "I started doing shoulder exercises, and to this day I still do them three times a week."