Five things we'll miss about Roddick
Throughout the years, when Andy Roddick would make finals or semifinals at Grand Slams before losing, analysts and fans on Internet message boards and forums would rip into him.
He boasted only a serve and nothing else, or he was an underachiever, the thinking went. Playing ahead of U.S. legends Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, Roddick was always being compared -- and unfairly.
While this author, too, criticized Roddick (for being passive from the baseline), he maximized every ounce of his ability, which is the only thing you -- and Roddick -- could ask for. He won a Grand Slam and Davis Cup title, ascended to No. 1 and finished in the top 10 for nine consecutive seasons.
In these times of underperforming, overpaid athletes, Roddick was a workhorse and earned every bit of his $20 million in prize money over 12 years. And when his matches were done, no one was better in news conferences.
When Roddick lost to Juan Martin del Potro at the U.S. Open on Wednesday, it officially ended his career. Looking back, here are five things we'll miss about Roddick:
5. The old forehand
There was a time, yes, when Roddick possessed the most feared forehand in the men's game, not the lesser version we've seen in the past several years. That time, though, came way back in 2003, when Roddick won the U.S. Open.
4. His emotions
Roddick was never one to hide his emotions. If he was angry with chair umpires, for instance, he'd let them know -- and you'd hear all about it. Entertainment.
Roddick would be the first to admit, as he did at the Australian Open in 2010, that sometimes he went too far. He wasn't averse to staring down or even trash-talking opponents, a rarity in tennis, as was the case against a young Kei Nishikori in San Jose four years ago. Likely something he's not proud of, either.
But a match against nemesis Roger Federer (he's most everyone's nemesis) in Miami four years ago, for me, trumps much of that. As Roddick was on the verge of ending an 11-match losing streak to Federer and trying to serve out the final game, he looked skyward asking for help to get the job done. He was desperate and not afraid to show it.
When he did put Federer away, he was nearly in tears on the baseline.
3. His commitment to Davis Cup
Not many higher-ranked players have represented their country in the Davis Cup as much as Roddick, at least in recent decades. He did it too much for his own good. Zigzagging continents and changing surfaces no doubt took a toll on Roddick, affecting his performances at Grand Slams and elsewhere. How much is difficult to quantify.
Roddick was a mainstay during the Patrick McEnroe era, in which he contested a grueling 16 series in 2004-08. When the U.S. needed to clinch a series, Roddick turned into Mariano Rivera.
"I can never repay him for winning me a Davis Cup," pal James Blake, referring to 2007, said at the U.S. Open. Blake wasn't simply being gracious. He was right. Roddick went 6-0 in 2007 -- and none were dead rubbers.
2. The humor
Roddick will go down as the greatest of all time -- in those news conferences. Which one was his finest? We all have our favorites, but Roddick was at the height of his comedic powers after he suffered a straight-sets loss to Federer in the 2005 Wimbledon final.
When one of Roddick's remarks made the stern-looking Wimbledon official who was sitting beside him chuckle, Roddick followed up: "I finally got a laugh out of you."
The place broke up.
Later, Roddick quipped: "I've told [Federer] before, I'd love to hate you, but you're really nice."
And when Roddick was asked this: "A situation like that when you're throwing out your best stuff, have a couple of good points, it's almost like he teases you into thinking you have a chance. How do you deal with that mentally?"
He replied: "Sounds like my life in high school."
First Marat Safin said goodbye to those pressers, now Roddick.
Who to pass the microphone to?
1. His grit
Roddick never tanked, and a match that summed it up nicely happened to be the toughest loss of his career. It was at Wimbledon, again, to Federer in a final, again. The year was 2009.
Leading by a set and 6-2 in a second-set tiebreaker, Roddick was on course to increase his advantage. The way he was serving, finally landing a maiden Wimbledon title -- the major he really wanted to win -- was within his grasp. But a missed high backhand volley cost Roddick, and Federer stole the second set.
The assembled pack of journalists all thought the same thing: Federer would win the next two sets in an hour. We were wrong.
Federer won the third set, but in another tiebreaker. Surely now Roddick would disappear.
Roddick won the fourth, only to be broken for the first time in the match at 14-15 in the fifth, possibly hampered by an injury.
If nothing else, Roddick can say he ended his career on a winning streak against Federer. It's the very least he deserved.
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