By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 2, 2007
In a subdued voice that understates the candor flowing from his mouth, Vincent Spadea speaks about the many avenues of his life.
Vinny Spade, I'm a renegade
My motto is ain't afraid
Five years ago, Spadea made a decision. A member of the ATP tour since 1993, he was tired of conforming to the country-club stereotype that accompanies tennis players. He wanted to be South Florida. He wanted to be hip-hop. He wanted to be Vinny Spade.
"I've always had it in me," Spadea said. "I just started doing interviews and getting that reputation as the guy who can twist words together."
That reputation has evolved around the credo by which he lives. Spadea has become the player who wears his emotions on his shirt. And his hat. And his shorts. In fact, his likeness is stitched on all three.
More telling than the clothes he wears on the court, though, are the words he speaks -- and writes -- off it.
I'll penetrate tennis culture
Bring you a lot closer
To the feeling of a tennis player poet
Spadea admits tennis is not at its zenith. But the reach of the game is improving, he said, and the catalyst is the culture he calls his own.
"Our popularity is getting well known, and in America it is starting to gain ground," he said. "It feels like there is a lot of work to do, but at the same time, we're starting to penetrate the eyes of the casual fan. It's penetrated pop culture a bit with some of our icons."
Andy Roddick and the Williams sisters make the short list of those "icons." Their endeavors to transcend the sport they play help to make tennis, according to Spadea "a hip sport as well as a traditional sport."
My quick rhyming got my big timing
That's why haters keep whining
Spadea would like to join that list, which is why he wrote an autobiography that was published in 2006. "Break Point: The Secret Diary of a Pro Tennis Player" drew the ire of more than a few fellow players.
In the book, Spadea criticized Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe for choosing Mardy Fish over him for the 2004 team. He chastised James Blake for stealing away the attention of ladies at a party.
"You can't please everyone when you come out with something in public," Spadea said. "You always try to make everyone happy, but at the end of the day, it comes down to trying to do what you believe in and talking about truths."
Blake is not playing in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, and Fish was not made available by ATP officials to comment. A message left last night requesting comment from McEnroe was not returned.
Go ahead and judge me
I see people in D.C. trying to hug me
Hate me or love me
By the end of the year, Spadea hopes to release a "short medley" of rap songs. He also would like to write another book, though most likely not until his playing career is through.
For now, Spadea said he wants to focus on his game. Yesterday, he defeated Wesley Moodie, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), in the second round of the Legg Mason. Ranked 58th in the world in singles, Spadea said his goal over the next few years is to enter the top 30.
"Ultimately tennis is the most intrinsic motivation I've had throughout my life," he said. "At the same time still ambitious and excited and confident in other realms that I tap into, instead of being a charlatan or poseur or some type of complete front man of a hoax. I don't believe that's been me in any form of my life."
Cause you know I ain't afraid of ya