Lawrence Roddick has spent many a day at the Jr. Orange Bowl tennis tournament. Years ago, he was there rooting for his younger brothers, John and Andy. Wednesday, he was at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center at the University of Miami, watching intently as his 13-year-old son J.C. rallied to beat Haruto Soeda of Japan 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in the first round of the Boys 14-unders.
Lawrence is the only one of the three Roddick brothers who did not play tennis. He was an All-American springboard diver at the University of Nebraska, and is now a chiropractor in San Antonio. His son, however, fell in love with tennis and is proud to carry on the family name on the court.
Everyone in the Roddick family knows, from watching Andy’s climb to No. 1 and U.S. Open champion, that the odds of making it as a professional tennis player are slim. That perspective helps Lawrence and J.C. keep their goals realistic.
“J.C. is just trying to improve his game at this point,” Lawrence Roddick said. “We aren’t focusing on wins, losses and rankings. All those things will come if he keeps working hard.”
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Asked what Uncles Andy and John, the tennis coach at University of Oklahoma, think of J.C.’s future, Lawrence smiled.
“Andy and John played at such a high level, and are so accustomed to that level, that they can’t really tell if a 13-year-old kid is going to be good,” Lawrence said. “They’ve been pretty hands-off, but we can call them if we ever need advice.”
J.C., who defeated Preston Brown 6-7 (5-7) 6-4, 6-2 in his second match Wednesday, played in the Jr. Orange Bowl 12s division last year and says he “did terrible.” Wednesday, his fitness helped him get past Haruto, whom he noticed getting tired after the second set. He says his surname doesn’t bring added pressure.
“I just put pressure on myself because I don’t want to lose, not because of my name,” he said.
The girls 14s draw also featured a pair of American players with athletic genes. On Court 3, Elli Mandlik, daughter of former Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova, beat Macey Miller 6-2, 6-4. Miller, of Norman, Okla., is the granddaughter of legendary football coach Barry Switzer.
Mandlik, who trains in Bradenton, has a twin brother, Mark, also a successful junior player. She got frustrated in the second half as Miller picked up her game, but in the end, Mandlik’s all-court style prevailed. Like Roddick, Mandlik shrugs off her familiar last name.
“It’s kind of the same as having any other parent,” she said. “My mom taught me to play, but I don’t feel any extra pressure with her name.”
The tournament, which features 1,500 players, continues through Dec. 22 at four locations. The U-14 Girls are at UM, U-14 Boys are at Crandon Park, U-12 Girls at Tropical Park and U-12 Boys at Salvador Park. Admission is free.