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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 03:39 GMT 04:39 UK
Roddick pays Gilbert tribute
Andy Roddick admitted after his US Open victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero that he was surprised how calm he felt in the closing stages, and gave the credit to his coach Brad Gilbert.

The 21-year-old has been in superb form since taking on Gilbert following a first-round exit at the French Open 13 weeks ago.

And a 19th straight win gave Roddick his first Grand Slam title, as he swept past new world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3 7-6 6-3 at Flushing Meadows.

"I was concerned about how I was going to handle the big occasion," said the American. "The hardest thing is fear of the unknown.

"But I was baffled by how calm I felt out there. I almost didn't feel anything."

And the new champion was in no doubt about how important the influence of Gilbert was in his victory.

"It was huge," said Roddick. "We have a great camaraderie. We just click. He knows what to say to me, when to say it. He makes things simple for me, which helps a lot."

Gilbert, for his part, was keen to play down his role.

"It's been an unbelievable three weeks," said Gilbert. "He's got an amazing game and talent, I changed nothing. I was just the right guy at the right time.

If I'm at the vanguard of new interest in tennis, then awesome
Andy Roddick
"I just knew from the first practice he had the game. He needed more strategy. He's 21, he'll get better. He definitely can serve better. Andy's serve was a way of taking out his nerves."

Roddick spared a thought for French coach Tarik Benhabiles - the man he replaced with Gilbert.

"Tarik was with me four years," said Roddick.

"He took me from a kid who was content to maybe get a college scholarship somewhere, and he was maybe the first one with a serious face to say 'you can be a champion'.

"It kind of feels empty not having him here. Hopefully, I'll see him soon."

And Roddick was well aware of the significance for tennis as a whole that America has a new star, just two weeks after Pete Sampras quit the sport.

"I don't think you could have written the script any better," said Roddick.

"We started here with Pete Sampras's retirement, and then Michael Chang. Now this.

"It's more than I could ever dream of. So no more 'what does it feel like to be the future of American tennis stuff?'. It feels good to be the present.

"And if I'm at the vanguard of new interest in tennis, if my winning promotes the sport, then awesome."



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