Andy Roddick, 34, is getting back into the world of sports. Well, kind of.
The former tennis pro, who retired in 2012, is the face of the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show's (Feb. 13-14) "Barketology." The bracketology-style game allows users to predict the seven group winners and Best in Show. Fans can join in on the fun at dogshowbracket.com, with the winner earning 1 million dollars.
We talked to Roddick about his top pup picks, his English bulldogs named Billie Jean and Bob Costas, and his thoughts on Serena Williams getting her 23rd major championship.
espnW: What was the strategy behind your 'Barketology' selects?
Andy Roddick: I've been around people who have done bracketology on instinct in the past and end up doing better than the analysts, so that's the way I went with my bracket. I had a poodle growing up, and I stuck with the historic favorite. I think they've had success over the long haul, so that's how I ended up with the miniature poodle.
espnW: That sounds like some pretty solid methodology.
AR: Yeah! I don't know if that's scientifically accurate, but I went with my gut and am hoping that I win the $1 million prize.
espnW: How did you get involved with this?
AR: I've had dogs my entire life. We have two English bulldogs right now named [in honor of] Billie Jean [King] and Bob Costas, so when I was approached by Purina Pro Plan to get on board and get the word out, it was a no-brainer. They've been such a big part of Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and have fueled the last 10 winners. For me, it was about associating with the brand of champion dogs, and I'm just a dog lover.
espnW: What are your thoughts on Serena Williams hitting 23 major championships?
AR: It's amazing. I've known Serena since we were 8 or 9 years old. To see her go from the girl I used to practice next to all the time to become this icon -- and not just one of the greatest women athletes of all time, but one of the greatest athletes of all time, it's amazing. Watching her march her way through the history of our sport has been a pleasure. She's always been a friend first, and it's hard for me to disassociate that from who she has become, but it's been amazing to see.
espnW: Is she the GOAT, male or female?
AR: I don't think it is a question. I think it is a matter of correcting rhetoric. Saying she's the best woman athlete shouldn't be taken as offensive as long as she's in the conversation with the greatest male athletes of all time as well. We need to enter her into the conversation with Jordan and Ali. I think that's where the respect lies, and where the conversation needs to go, after the acknowledgement of what she's done for women in sports.
espnW: Can you talk a little bit about your foundation work?
AR: I'm the founder and currently the chairman of The Andy Roddick Foundation, which focuses on post-classroom time for kindergarten through fifth-grade kids. We serve 1,500 [students] in the Austin, Texas area. We've taken over after-school programming for Austin Parks and Rec, so that's been amazing to be a part of and see grow as well.
espnW: How did you get involved with that work?
AR: The research dictated what we had to do. I've always been involved in different children's charities, but a lot of it was college prep. A lot of it is regurgitating what is learned during the school years, so we took the opportunity during out-of-school time because we can dictate the curriculum a little bit more. We can teach kids about personal finance at an early age, and how to grow sustainable foods. Everything we do is in groups, so it promotes conversation to get to a solution.