Center Courting

updated 09/01/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/01/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Mandy Moore is not afraid to make the first move. After reading a magazine article last year about tennis phenom Andy Roddick, "I thought, 'This guy is really cute,'" she recalls. So she sent her mom, who was attending a tournament in Toronto, to run interference. "I said, 'Hey, if that guy Andy Roddick is there,'" says Moore, who was then shooting her latest movie, How to Deal, nearby, "'invite him to the set.'"

Mom did just that, Roddick accepted, and a love match was made. A year later, with No. 4-ranked Roddick, 21, a favorite going into the U.S. Open this week and Moore, 19, likely to cheer him on, Mandy 'n' Andy are feeling aces. "He knows me better than anyone, and I know him better than anyone," the singer-actress says. "It's very grounding to know that I have this person I am very happy with."

And Roddick, whose heartthrob looks have won him a fervent female following, has gained his most enthusiastic fan yet. "They totally support each other's careers and interests," says tennis pro Brian Vahaly, a close Roddick pal. Although their work schedules often keep them apart—Moore has been filming the romance The President's Daughter in Prague while Roddick has been traveling and training in New York and Boca Raton, Fla.—Roddick says it's no sweat. "I think it's easier than it could be, because we each have a career to focus on," he says. "When we get together, we really appreciate the time we spend."

Usually, that time together is far from the club-hopping agenda laid out in the Hot Celebrity Couple Handbook. "We'd rather watch TV, and if we're staying at a hotel, order room service," says Moore, who dated That '70s Show star Wilmer Valderrama, 23, in 2002. Friends say the fresh-scrubbed pop princess has had a calming influence on her beau. "Mandy is good for him," says former tennis pro Carling Bassett-Seguso, a pal. "He has matured greatly during the last year."

On the tennis court, though, Roddick has always been ahead of his years. The youngest of three sons born to Blanche, 58, a retired teacher, and Jerry, 59, a businessman, Roddick grew up in Omaha and learned tennis from his older brother John, 27, an All-American player. In 2000 he turned pro and scored junior-championship wins at the U.S. and Australian Opens; today his fortune is an estimated $6 million.

While Roddick was perfecting his 147-mph serves, his future sweetheart was practicing her high notes just a few hours away in Orlando. In 1999 Moore, the daughter of Stacy, 46, a former newspaper reporter, and Don, 46, a pilot, released her first hit album, So Real. Then the blonde beauty once regarded as a Britney wannabe dyed her hair brown and took a serious role in the 2002 Christian-themed weeper A Walk to Remember, which went on to gross $41 million.

Between singing—Moore's next album, Coverage, is due in October—acting and tennis, the couple often must make do with long-distance romance. Moore spends time in Orlando and Los Angeles, where she recently bought a $1.7 million pad that she shares with her family. She also hangs out with Roddick at the Boca Raton home he bought for $310,000 in '01. "It's a nice solid thing to have in your life when things get crazy," Moore says of their relationship. Have they talked about marriage? "It comes up, but we know we're both so young," she says. "It's just nice that we can share a bit of our lives together right now."

Michelle Tauber
Robyn Flans in Los Angeles and Linda Marx and Don Sider in Miami

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