Photographer: Chris Trotman/Getty Images/USTA. “Andy Roddick” Photo. bloomberg.com 3 Sept. 2012. 27 Sept. 2013. [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-02/djokovic-reaches-u-s-open-tennis-4th-round-roddick-set-to-play.html].
Entertainer, competitor, philanthropist. These are just a few words that describe American tennis star Andy Roddick. He had a trademark presence on court. So when he decided to hang up his racket at the U.S Open last year, it marked the end of an era.
As one looks at Roddick’s career over the years it is difficult to see where he fits in, especially amidst all the talk of greatness looming over Roger Federer, the clay domination of Rafael Nadal and the rise of Novak Djokovic. Ever since his first and, to date, only triumph on the Grand Slam stage, at the 2003 U.S Open, Roddick has fallen victim to the tag of a “one slam wonder”. His apt reaction to this: “Well that’s one more than most”. Having seen success at an early age could pose as a disadvantage to most with the burden of expectations wearing them down, but this Texas resident was not one to complain. If anything, the guy thrived under pressure.
After the retirement of Sampras in 2003 and with Agassi’s career coming to a close, A-Rod played the lead role in U.S men’s tennis as long as one can remember. For the major part of his career, he was the lone flag-bearer for America at the business end of major tournaments. With the huge gap in the depth of American men’s players in the post-Agassi/Sampras era, Roddick wasn’t one to shy away from the spotlight and picked up where the likes of Jim Courier and Michael Chang left off. Though these were big shoes to fill, he was eager to rise to the occasion and led U.S.A to a Davis Cup final victory in 2007 after a lapse of 12 years.
The 2009 Wimbledon final has stuck in the minds of most tennis fans, not only because of the historical numbers (longest fifth set in the men’s final, Federer breaking Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles) or the quality of tennis but more so because of the way Roddick fought valiantly and persevered for the duration of that five-set epic. In his post-match press conference when asked how he would bounce back after this, his answer was precise “What do you do? You keep moving forward until you decide to stop. At this point, I’ve not decided to stop, so I’ll keep moving forward.” This epitomizes what Roddick truly was; a fighter, not a quitter and his entire tennis playing career is living proof of this.
Consistency is another word that comes to mind when one talks of this former world number one. He finished inside the top 10 in end of year rankings for nine consecutive years and maintained his record of capturing ATP World Tour titles for 12 straight seasons before retiring. Amassing a total of 32 singles titles and achieving his 600th tour-level match win in 2012, are numbers not to be taken lightly.
Hard work and perseverance were second nature to him. If ever Roddick were to lose a match, it can safely be said it wasn’t due to a lack of effort on his part. In an interview to the New York Times, Aussie Coach and former tour player, Darren Cahill rightly said: “I know there are better tennis players than Andy Roddick at the moment, but if I’m going to pick anyone in the world to come and represent my country, to provide a culture for younger players to look up to, to show a work ethic that is the standard for everyone, to fight for their country, and to win clutch matches, Andy Roddick would be just about the first person I would pick”.
In a sport, where success is gauged by the number of Grand Slam titles a player amasses, one can easily overlook giving due recognition to the likes of Roddick. But, with his quick-wit, never-say-die attitude and a humble appreciation of his peers, the American was the epitome of a true entertainer who won the hearts of millions in the process.