Aug. 30 was a sad day for American tennis. Arguably one of the best Americans to grace the sport, 30-year-old Andy Roddick, made the decision to retire after this year’s US Open Tennis Championship.
Six days later, Roddick played his final match against Argentinean giant Juan Martin del Potro. Andy Roddick leaves behind an outstanding career spanning 12 years of success.
Following the greatest generation of American tennis that fielded the dominance of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, Roddick had big shoes to fill as he spearheaded the next generation of tennis. He did not let the pressure get to him, though, as he put up a dominant career that has cemented him in history as the greatest American tennis player of his generation.
Even the most fair-weather sports fan would not question his dominance in the sport but most would not know what made Andy stand out amongst his compatriots.
So why Roddick? Why was he the most dominant American over players like John Isner (world No. 9), James Blake (former world No. 4), Sam Querrey (former world No. 17) and other greats in his generation?
One of the most obvious reasons was his style of play. Boasting one of the best serves in tennis history, Roddick revolutionized the game with heavy serves and minimal strokes: a far cry from the prior game of serves and volleys. His fastest serve of 155 miles per hour was the world record for seven years. If that’s not a dominant serve, I am not sure what is.
Another reason for his supremacy was the record he held in world tennis. Winning one Grand Slam is an accomplishment in itself for this generation of American tennis, but he could have won many more titles if it weren’t for the mild-mannered Swede with a one-handed backhand. Out of all five of Roddick’s Grand Slam finals, he faced Roger Federer in four of them. Know which one Roddick won? You guessed it: the match that did not feature Federer.
It is important to note that these showdowns happened after Roddick’s US Open title in 2003. One might argue that if Federer was not in the game during Roddick’s peak, Roddick may have earned a few more trophies. This is speculation, but Roddick still showed that he was able to improve his game to keep up with arguably the greatest tennis generation in history.
We could look at his career objectively, but let’s talk numbers. The most important number? One. At the age of 21, Roddick became the youngest American tennis player to hold the Association of Tennis Professionals No. 1 ranking as well as the first American to do so since tennis legend Andre Agassi held it in 1999.
So how does Roddick’s departure affect the game of tennis? For one, American audiences may feel a sense of detachment from the game due to their tremendous support of the golden boy of tennis. He was America’s pride and joy, and Americans would consistently support him long after it became clear that there were only three players who could possibly make it to any Grand Slam final, and Roddick was not among them.
Roddick left a giant imprint both on and off the court. Gone are the days of his arguments against umpires, his sarcasm in press conferences and his iron will to succeed in his game. With his exit from tennis, Americans everywhere lost a national figure to rally behind.
After his final match was over, Roddick took over the microphone for his postgame speech.
The stadium was eerily silent in anticipation for his final words. After thanking his fans, his family and his friends, Roddick thanked his former agent Ken Meyerson. And with that, Roddick walked out of Arthur Ashe stadium, on American soil and in the stadium where he won his only Grand Slam title.
Roddick retires as a legend and will forever be in the hearts of American tennis fans.