Keeping Score

Andy Roddick Retires: How He Helped American Tennis

Andy Roddick may have faded to European stars like Nadal and Federer, but his hard-hitting style impacted the game

  • Share
  • Read Later
Debra L Rothenberg / Wire Image / Getty Images

Tennis player Andy Roddick attends 2012 Arthur Ashe Kids' Day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Aug. 25, 2012 in New York City.

When evaluating an athlete’s career, it’s convenient to predict what would have unfolded if he or she had come up from a different era. Over the last decade, no sports star has been the subject of such a conversation more than Andy Roddick. (Phil Mickelson, second fiddle to Tiger Woods during the height of Tiger’s power, is right there with him).

Poor Andy. He won one Grand Slam title, the U.S. Open, back in 2003, as a 21-year-old with a 140 miles-per-hour serve. He was destined for so many more wins. He had the talent and the work ethic. He was just brash enough to keep you glued to the set, but not cocky or mean enough to turn you off. In the post Sampras-Agassi era, he’d carry American tennis.

Then came Roger. And Rafa. And Novak Djokovic. Roddick could win no more Slams, and American men’s tennis would see a decade-long drought in the majors.

But who’s to say Roddick would have won any more titles if he had to face Sampras and Agassi on a regular basis? Or McEnroe, Connors, and Ivan Lendl?  So with Roddick, the former world No. 1, announcing that he’s going to retire at 30, after this year’s U.S. Open, rather than rue his supposed misfortune, it might be better to reflect upon what we know for sure: Roddick was a great, if sometimes frustrating, American tennis player.

His serves alone made him memorable. Many tennis traditionalists hate the modern power game, and Andy’s aces didn’t hold the same suspense of a volley-heavy rally. But those serves screamed at you, and kept you from tuning out a Roddick match, even if you knew his game wasn’t complete enough to beat Federer. And don’t think Roddick’s style didn’t inspire wimpy weekend warriors, not-so-proud owners of 25 mph first serves, and 5 mph second serves, to put a little more mustard on their swings, despite the disastrous results. I can attest to this from experience: Roddick could creep into your psyche. He mattered.

(MORE: 10 Questions For Andy Roddick)

And at times, he made you want to throw a racket. He suffered too many early exits from big tournaments, the worst being the 2005 U.S. Open. In the lead-up to that year’s tournament, American Express put Roddick at the center of an ad campaign called “Where’s Andy’s Mojo?” The idea: Roddick couldn’t play well until he found this “mojo.” The ads were ubiquitous, and kind of annoying. Then Roddick went out and lost in the first round, in straight sets.

Fittingly, the finest moment of Roddick’s career might have been a loss, to nemesis Federer, in the 2009 Wimbledon final. No one expected Roddick to make it that far. Then he went shot for shot with Federer in a classic that ended 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14. Roddick lost his serve just once, in the 77th, and final, game of the match. “In my mind,” Federer said on Thursday, after Roddick announced his retirement, “he is a Wimbledon champion.”

In a way, Roddick’s failures did America a favor. As sports fans, Americans had become too parochial, always obsessing over the next great American, as if the lack of a U.S. champion somehow reflected badly on the country. But over the past five or so years, once it became clear that Roddick would have no place at the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic table, Americans stopped seeing the European roots of this transcendent trio as a detriment to their popularity. They relished their rivalries, and admired their grace, athleticism, and grit on the court. The fact that Roddick had faded from consciousness these last few years is a testament to the expanding global tastes of U.S. sports fans.

That said, Roddick’s retirement leaves American tennis in a deep hole. Who will compete, on the men’s side, in the foreseeable future? Serena Williams is still red-hot on the women’s side, and she’s talking about playing for a long time. But she’s about to turn 31, and she’s unpredictable: if Williams suddenly announced her retirement soon, would it really be all that surprising?

America’s tennis reputation continues to be in trouble. But Roddick deserves plenty of credit, for giving his best effort to restore it.

MORE: The 2008 TIME 100 – Andy Roddick on Andre Agassi

7 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
minerva
minerva

When someone retires on sports, it does not mean that he or she cannot do anything else. He or she may just prefer to do something else.

Josephwong664
Josephwong664

Minerva.....Your comment is totally irrelevant to the topic here. It is so general and a cop-out answer. Sounds like you need to say something stupid to make yourself feel better and understand why Andy is retiring. Its kind of like when people say "everything happens for a reason, or God wanted it that way." And you need to fix your Russian or Eastern European English.

Kristianmckay
Kristianmckay

Roddick was done after the loss to Federer in the Wimbledon final. That was the moment, a win there would have changed it all for him i believe. He will always be a could have been great, but never was to me...

Bkc168
Bkc168

this guy didnt nothing for american tennis... he never won any big events... please, he knew he was fading... serina did more for american tennis then this guy in one match... stop it america.. he deserves nothing, cause he did just that NOTHING!

Josephwong664
Josephwong664

I am glad that Andy is retiring.  He was the only American for a while that even had a chance to bring home a Grand Slam title.  Unfortunately, he has been giving us Americans false hope year after year since he won the US open.  I used to be a huge Andy fan (because of my US pride), and as his career progressed, I became disgusted with his attitude and play on the court, and now I hate to watch him play.  In my opinion, he will end his career as one of the biggest failures in sports history, and I'll tell you why.

Andy was always known to have a big serve, and for a while he was able to dominate and win the US Open because of it.  As the game of tennis progressed over the years, he needed to change his game because his serve alone would not be able to take out the top players like Federer and Nadal, and unfortunately he didn't.  All Andy did was rally back and forth with his opponent and waited for them to make unforced errors.  Andy needed to be way more aggressive and attack his opponent to dictate the points.  When he had these opportunities, he would always hit the ball back to the middle of the court or back to his opponent, instead of the other side of the court or down the line.  When he retires, he should be a hitting partner for Roger because rallying is his specialty and all he knows whatt to do.  Did he actually think that he could take out the top players doing this year after year?  Was he satisfied with just being in the top 10 and not the top 5?  I am pretty sure that his many coaches would tell him to be more aggressive, and he obviously didn't listen to them.  He looks like a stubborn a$$hole that is un-coachable, thinks he is always right, and will not listen to anyone.  He has his last name for a reason, because he is a rodDICK!  We have all seen his attitude, comments, and unnecessary blowups on the court, so that speaks for itself. He had the talent to win many Grand Slam titles, but in the end, his stubborn attitude made his career a failure, and he will always be remembered for that.  He will always be in the class of "should've, could've, and would've, but didn't."  He is such a prick and I hate watching him play.  If he won more Grand Slams, then at least he would have more of a right to be a prick because he will have the titles to back him up (like Serena).  If he was a nice guy and had a better attitude, people would feel sorry for him.  But at least he would have more fans and supporters, and people would actually want him to win (like Andy Murray).  

I commend Andy for his hard work and dedication.  He had the chance to be one of the greatest players, but his arrogance blinded him from that....what a shame.

He will not be missed!!!!

Bkc168
Bkc168

i TOTALLY agree with you.. he's the RYAN LEAF of american tennis.. the only thing different he had over ryan is SPONSORSHIP.

Los42550
Los42550

More like a the Sabatini of men's tennis. Overshadowed by Graf/Seles/Hingis/Capriati. The only difference is Sabatini was a crowd favorite and popular among the pros. She did not have Roddick's attitude. Nominate Gaby before Andy to Hall of Fame.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 233 other followers