As the face of American men’s tennis for the last decade, Roddick willingly carried the torch through successes and failures in one of the most barren stretches of U.S. men’s singles titles.
Roddick announced his plans to retire on Thursday at Flushing Meadows, and there is no more fitting backdrop to his career coda than the place where he won his lone Grand Slam title way back in 2003.
Although Roddick celebrated his 30th birthday Thursday at Flushing Meadows, his enduring presence at or around the top 10 makes it feel like he’s been around forever. And time has taken its toll on one of the most charismatic, engaging and popular players in the game.
“I’ll make this short and sweet: I’ve decided that this is going to be my last tournament,” Roddick told reporters. “I just feel like it’s time. I don’t know that I’m healthy enough or committed enough to go another year. I’ve always wanted to, in a perfect world, finish at this event.”
(Video of that memorable 16-14 fifth set in the 2009 Wimbledon final can be found here.)
But his play for his country was just as impressive. Roddick won 30 singles matches in Davis Cup and was 12-0 in tie-clinching contests.
Roddick’s career was far from perfect, and many commentators have postulated than in any other era — without the Federer/Rafael Nadal duo lording over the sport — he could have won many more major titles. But Roddick carried the mantle for American men’s tennis with grace and a flair befitting a champion.
And carrying the hopes of a nation was no small burden.
“It didn’t really hit me until I got into the top 10 myself,” Roddick’s close friend Mardy Fish said in a Tennis Channel interview Thursday. “He’s taken the pressure off all the Americans in my generation. Just dealing with all those people betting on him to win, or investing in his performance. The press obligations after every loss. It’s amazing how incredibly well he’s done that for so long.”
On Friday night under the lights, Roddick will try to extend his final run in a second-round match against Australian Bernard Tomic.
“If I do run into some emotions tomorrow or in four days, I don’t want people to think I’m a little unstable. Or more unstable,” Roddick said with a chuckle. “So that’s why I came to this decision.”
Six years ago, Andre Agassi received a four-minute standing ovation after his final match at the U.S. Open. And although Roddick never approached Agassi’s success on the court, when his run in New York is up, he will have earned a similar send-off.