Andy Roddick was 21 when he won the US Open in 2003, his only slam title, but he looks as intense now as he did then, a volcano with a racket.
Back then the incentive was the burning desire to take over from his fellow American Pete Sampras, who delayed his retirement announcement until just before the tournament. Sampras won his eighth and final US title 12 months earlier, having beaten Roddick in the quarter-finals and Andre Agassi in the final. He never played on Tour again.
In 2012 Roddick can look back on a distinguished career but not one that comes anywhere near that of Sampras. Like every player of his era he has been confounded by the rise of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, then the power of Novak Djokovic, the flickering art of Andy Murray and the presumption of an army of young contenders.
He remains a prickly but increasingly amusing presence, quick to respond acidly to criticism, which has grown in keeping with his struggle to beat injury and his rivals. However he takes it as gross insult to suggest he might quit tennis and spend more time with his Texas radio station
After seeing off the artful but under-powered challenge of another young American, the promising Rhyne Williams, in three competitive sets on day two with the help of 20 aces, the first question he fielded afterwards, although cleverly crafted, set the tone. "Crossing the threshold of 30 – a little less scary in tennis now than it was 10 or 20 years ago."
Roddick, who turns 30 on Thursday, replied: "I don't know how to rationalise what it was 10 or 20 years ago. It's not something I think about."
What he does think about, surely, is the future. For the moment it looks OK. Whether he has one here after round two we will see soon enough. He was as fiesty as ever against Williams – and with the media.
Asked what would be an "acceptable" run here, he snapped: "There is no 'acceptable' result. You play your second round, try to win your second round. You go as far as you want. Or as far as you can. I don't think we think of it in the context of what's acceptable and what's not."
Not now. Maybe that wasn't the case nine years ago.
Trying to read a player from his or her facial expression and demeanour is, as Andy Murray has discovered, a popular exercise in commentary boxes and newspaper columns everywhere.
Take the contrasting tics and twitches of David Goffin and Tomas Berdych.
The forecast rain did not arrive on a sunny day, but you would not know it from the cloud hovering over Berdych, a man who looks as if someone has wired him up to the mains – as well he might, protecting his sixth seeding against the Belgian, who is ranked 48 places below him in the world.
Goffin, who gave Roger Federer a fright in Paris, is the Czech's polar opposite, all bright-eyed and innocent, and might have wandered in from the pages of TinTin. Berdych won. Back to the books Dave.
There are stories in every face.
Milos Raonic (pained, unhappy, frustrated prospect, just the 15 double faults, 55 unforced errors and 30 aces) beat Santiago Giraldo (your prototype engaged Latin but not in Rafa's class of intensity).
Roddick (Mr Angry, King of the Twitch, Berdych clone to the power of 10, scourge of ball kids) defeated Williams (cleancut college type, glad to be here, nice to ball kids, thanks for coming).
All in all, then, a victory for the gnarled and wild-eyed. God bless 'em.
Strike talk cools
Whether or not the players boycott the Australian Open in January, Andy Murray, who was on the front line of talks in Melbourne a year ago, advises caution.
"The player meeting at the Aussie Open was pretty brutal. Everyone was speaking up. The whole tour was together; they still are." He added, pointedly: "There have been some changes to the grand slam prizemoney. The majority of the players want to see a change in the grand slams. Who knows what's going to happen? I hope it doesn't come down to [a strike]. That's bad for everybody."
I wouldn't bet on anything more than a flow of tough messages between the ATP and the tournament organisers. These are unhappy but well-paid athletes, not revolutionaries.
Johanna Konta, Sydney-born prospect of Hungarian parents who moved to the UK seven years ago when she was 14, admitted after winning her first round win over Timea Babos (a Hungarian by birth) that she still doesn't know the words to God Save The Queen. It's not a hanging offence any more, Johanna. As long as you keep winning.
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image: © marianne bevis