Andy Roddick returns a shot against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina before their fourth-round match was suspended with Roddick leading 1-0 in the first-set tiebreaker. (Elsa/GETTY IMAGES)

With rain halting play three times Tuesday at the U.S. Open and thunderstorms forecast throughout the night, American Andy Roddick was sent off Arthur Ashe Stadium court with his future in limbo.

Playing in what may be the final match of his 13-year career, Roddick bolted to a 5-2 lead against Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro. But before the opening set could be completed, del Potro leveled the score and the rain returned to halt the proceedings just after Roddick won the first point in the tiebreaker.

That’s where the score stood, knotted at 6 in the opening set, with Roddick holding a 1-0 lead in the tiebreaker, when tournament officials suspended play for the night shortly after 9:30 p.m. The fourth-round match will be resumed early Wednesday afternoon following the conclusion of Tuesday’s suspended women’s quarterfinal between Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli, in which Bartoli led 4-0.

The 20th-seeded Roddick, whose greatest career triumph came in Arthur Ashe Stadium when he won the 2003 U.S. Open at age 21, announced last week that he planned to retire once his 2012 U.S. Open came to an end.

There was plenty of reason to believe that end would come Tuesday, when Roddick faced del Potro, the hard-hitting No. 7 seed.

With rain scuttling all but a few hours of play Tuesday afternoon, the stands at the 24,500-seat Ashe Stadium, the biggest venue in tennis, were only about one-third full when Roddick and del Potro strode out for warmups at 8 p.m., roughly an hour after their 7 p.m. match was scheduled to start.

Many ticket holders assumed, given the dreary forecast, that the evening session would be rained out. As a result, Roddick was deprived one of the few distinct advantages he held against del Potro: the support of a raucous home-court crowd that had cheered him through each of his earlier rounds,

Conditions weren’t ideal for high-caliber tennis. The air was heavy and damp. The wind whipped. Water pooled on the court.

It was a battle of big serves in the early going.

Roddick got the first break to take a 4-2 lead. Though the points were short, both players were soon drenched in sweat, virtually swimming in the humid night air.

Roddick kept blasting away, jamming the 6-foot-6 del Potro with thunderstruck serves to his body. But he sent back-to-back forehands long to get broken for the first time.

Del Potro began playing with more confidence, extending rallies by yanking Roddick from one sideline to the other and ripping passing shots when Roddick charged the net.

In other action Tuesday evening, defending champion Novak Djokovic took a 2-0 lead in the first set against Stanislas Wawrinka when that match was suspended. Janko Tipsarevic led Philipp Kohlschreiber 5-2, 40-40 when their match was suspended. Weather permitting, play will resume Wednesday at 11 a.m.