At Wimbledon, many questioned why Andy Roddick made the gesture he made when he left the court, after losing to David Ferrer. Of course, rumours of retirement were quick to appear, but I remember writing that we should never retire a player until he is ready to do so himself.
Yesterday, Andy Roddick was ready. Calling a press conference on his 30th birthday, everyone was questioning, wondering. From just to be presented a birthday cake to withdrawing from the tournament (he’s had various physical issues for a bit, after all) to retiring altogether from tennis, everyone was talking.
At a little past 18:00 in New York, the Nebraska native announced what some hinted for over a year he would, with a very simple sentence:
“I’ll make this short and sweet. I’ve decided that this is going to be my last tournament.”
Then, of course, came the inevitable question: why?
” 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. I have a lot of family and friends here. I’ve thought all year that I would know when I got to this tournament. When I was playing my first round, I knew.”
Did he know, after that Wimbledon last match? In a sense…
“On some big moments this year, I think I’ve known. You know, walking off at Wimbledon, I felt like I knew. Playing here, I don’t know what it was. I couldn’t imagine myself being there in another year.”
Feeling like he couldn’t follow anymore, this fierce competitor has decided to call it quits on his terms, at home, in the same location where he won his only Grand Slam title, back in 2003, when he was but a lad of 21.
Roddick will face Aussie Bernard Tomic in the second round of the U.S. Open tonight, on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, and many, including his great rival Roger Federer, are hoping that he will win and play yet another match.
The announcement of the former World n° 1’s retirement came as a semi-surprise for everyone, and the reactions and comments from fans, journalists, and fellow players were quick to follow.
Before and after his second-round match against Bjorn Phau, current World n° 1 Roger Federer, who had a great (albeit one-sided) rivalry with Roddick, was one of those who had the best words to say about the man from Austin.
From the “I hope you guys are going to make it tough for Tomic” he directed at the Ashe Stadium crowd, to the “He’s got the last laugh, he beat me in Miami this year”, Federer rained compliments on the American, his competitive spirit, his never taking his matches against him for granted because he knew how fierce a competitor he is.
He’s not the only one. Many expressed their sadness at seeing a great champion go, but what came out of it is really not to be sad, but to celebrate Roddick’s accomplishments and what he brought to tennis over the course of his career.
So I decided to celebrate a colourful tennis player, amidst my sadness about seeing him go.
A few numbers
Andy Roddick has been World n° 1 for nine weeks at the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004, just before the reign of Roger Federer.
Throughout his career, he won 32 singles titles, including the 2003 U.S. Open, and one Davis Cup (2007), but one of his great accomplishments, to me, was his winning at least one title in each of the last 11 years, including two this year.
Something very fitting, in my mind, is Roddick winning his first and last career title at the same tournament, in Atlanta, on clay in 2001 and on hard this year.
What kept him from winning even more titles, especially at Grand Slams, was, I believe, because he is a contemporary of Roger Federer, and then of Rafael Nadal, and now of Novak Djokovic as well. Despite that fact, he’s always had a tremendous relationship with the Swiss, as shows the laughs they had after their exhibition match at the Madison Square Garden last March:
In fact, I don’t think Roddick had a bad relationship with many of his fellow players, which is something we cannot say of everyone.
Colourful and outspoken
As a fan, I admit that Andy Roddick was never a favourite of mine. However, I’ve always admired him for his personality, his sarcasm, his outspokenness, his humour, as well as the entertainment he could bring into a tennis match, although not always for the right reasons.
Of course, his powerful serve remains legend, but his fierce competitive sense was really what marked me the most.
Who can forget his rants at the umpires when things were not going well? In my view, whoever rants at the umpires nowadays have lessons to take from Roddick, a worthy heir of John McEnroe in that regard:
That was really my favourite Roddick rant and tirade, although I really liked his asking permission before breaking a racquet in Madrid last year, as well as Mohamed Lahyani’s reaction to it:
Roddick has also always been very sincere and outspoken with the press, never using any form of “cassette talk”, which made for very interesting and often funny moments, as is depicted in this “best of” video:
I also have some personal favourites, like this press conference in 2008 when Roddick was told of what Novak Djokovic was suffering from and decided to add physical issues to those the journalist was giving him, which never fails to make me laugh:
However, along with all this, I will remember Andy Roddick for that incredible championship point in Memphis, last year, his most spectacular point:
Yes, there is a however, and I will repeat myself: I hope that tonight will not be Andy Roddick’s last match, and that he will go on to get to at least another round in New York.
At least, contrary of Fernando González and Ivan Ljubicic, we are sure to see his last match, which is a big comfort.
To my count, Andy Roddick is already the ninth ATP player to retire this season, following Fernando González, Ivan Ljubicic, Arnaud Clément, José Acasuso, Juan Pablo Brzezicki, Rainer Schüttler, Conor Niland, and Lionel Noviski.
I’m sad to think that there may be quite a few more at the end of the season, especially considering that those are the players of the same generation as me, and whom I’ve been following for years.