Roddick unsurprised by Armstrong popularity

Tennis ace hails Lance as an "icon"

Former world tennis number one Andy Roddick admitted that he’s been an interested observer as his neighbour Lance Armstrong launches his comeback, which coincides with the Australian Open, and threatens to overshadow the Grand Slam event.

Roddick, who lives near Armstrong's Texas ranch, has watched as the cycling legend drew 130,000 fans and blanket press coverage to this week's Tour Down Under in Adelaide and says he is not surprised by the media furore surrounding the seven-time Tour de France winner.

"I live about two miles from Lance in Austin. But, no, I'm not really surprised," he said, when asked about the attention surrounding Armstrong.

"I mean, he's an icon pretty much wherever he goes. In the States, he wears so many hats from athlete to the political side of cancer research and fund-raising. I'm not really too surprised by it. Obviously... this is his first comeback race, so I think that probably adds a little drama to it."

Armstrong, who survived cancer before claiming a record seven Tour de France wins, tackles the first stage of the Australian race on Tuesday 19 January in his first event since retiring in 2005.

© AFP 2009

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