Andy Roddick—the last American tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament when his supersonic serve garnered him a 2003 US Open title at the age of 21—played his last match, game and point today. When I saw he had called a press conference last week, on his 30th birthday and on an off day for him at the 2012 US Open tournament, I had a gut feeling this was it. I knew he was finished.
Seeing Roddick leave is sad. He isn’t my favorite player and by far not the best player, but despite some of his shortcomings, he is fun to watch and always gives 100 percent.
In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Tom Perrotta says, “All in: It’s perhaps the best way to describe Roddick, in the best and worst of moments. For all the aces he hit, he won most of his matches with moxie and determination. He won the 2003 U.S. Open at age 21 and lost four Grand Slam finals to Roger Federer, including three at Wimbledon. He led the U.S. to a Davis Cup title in 2007.”
He goes on to describe how Federer’s dominance and the eventual transition of tennis to be a “game more about speed and athleticism and returning” kept Roddick from securing a second Grand Slam and from reaching the heights so many had hoped he would.
“Federer’s shadow is so long that it’s easy to forget that Roddick was for a brief moment a transformative figure in tennis,” Perrotta writes. “When he shot up the rankings in his early years on tour, no one had ever served like him—not that hard and that consistently. When he won the U.S. Open in 2003 and later took over No. 1, any sane observer would have predicted it was the first title of many.”
He’s had a successful career and should be proud of his accomplishments, including holding one of the fastest serves on record at 155 mph.
In the final game against Juan Martin del Potro, you could see in Roddick’s eyes that each point he won was one more moment he had as a tennis pro, one more moment as the face of American men’s tennis, one more moment in this epic era of his life. Luckily, he also knows he has many great moments to come. After his match, he said one thing about retirement that didn’t scare him was knowing he was going to be with his family. He also has his philanthropy, the Andy Roddick Foundation and his youth tennis center.
Roddick went pro right around the time I fell in love with tennis. While I understood the impact of Andre Agassi and his retirement, I never watched Aggassi in his prime. Roddick is really first person to retire whose entire career I witnessed. Even though I wasn’t at all surprised with his announcement, it definitely hit me.
The Atlantic recently published an article called “Enjoy Roger Federer’s Graceful, Poetic Tennis Game While You Still Can.” Roger Federer inspires me, and for years I’ve been telling myself I need to see him play in person before he retires. Roddick’s retirement made me realize it’s now or never.
Unfortunately, at this time in my life, I doubt that will happen. I’m a struggling journalist with very little income from freelance work and with college loan debt. I am stuck living at home in a small town. At 28 years old, I’m in limbo again. In fact, since 2006 my life has been put on hold. I’ve been holding out for the life I’ve dreamed of, the life I’ve pictured and imagined, the life I want. And I don’t think I am asking too much—just to live in a decent-sized city with a job I somewhat enjoy that pays enough to cover the bills. But here I am, still on hold. I don’t want to be on hold. I want to be “All in.” I want to be going 155 mph, taking in life and seizing every opportunity. Throughout this time there have been brief moments. I have had some amazing experiences and met some amazing people, but the longer I stay on hold, the fewer experiences happen. I fear I will never see Federer play live. And I can live with that. I feel a bit selfish even expressing sadness over it considering all the great experiences I have had and that I know there are others who literally have nothing. But I can’t stand the thought that unlike Roddick, maybe I have no more moments to look forward to. Only moments to remember.