06/04/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT
Andy Roddick was 10 years old and short for his age when, at a tennis tournament his older brother was playing in, he approached an official from Reebok and announced, "My name is Andy, I'm going to be a great tennis player, and this is your chance."
Reebok bit and signed the kid to its junior program. Eight years later Roddick is still a client, only now he's 6'1" and on the verge of being as great as he planned to be. In April he rode a thunderous 139-mph serve to victory at the Verizon Tennis Challenge in Atlanta, becoming the first teenage American male in a decade to win a tour event. A week later he won again, at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston. "Andy is going to be a big factor at the French Open," predicts U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, referring to the tournament that starts this week.
Currently No. 21 in the world, Roddick isn't fazed by forecasts of stardom. "I don't think about those things," insists the pizza-loving, backward-cap-wearing son of a Nebraska schoolteacher and her businessman husband (both now retired and living with him in Boca Raton, Fla.). Roddick followed older brothers John and Lawrence into sports at age 4 and "played fictitious matches with Lendl and Becker" in the garage, says his mother, Blanche, 56. By 2000 he was ranked the world's top junior player. Says his friend and mentor Andre Agassi: "Andy has a great presence on the court."
Not to mention that Reebok deal, now worth an estimated $300,000 a year. "I get to buy more CDs," says Roddick, "and a lot of clothes."