For the better part of a decade, Andy Roddick was the best tennis player America had to offer. On Thursday night, he announced the 2012 U.S. Open would be the final tournament of his great career.
"I'll make this short and sweet," Roddick said at a hastily-called press conference at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. "I've decided that this is going to be my last tournament."
The Nebraska native/Texas resident made the stunning announcement on the day of his 30th birthday.
"Probably the first time in my career that I can sit here and say I'm not sure that I can put everything into it physically and emotionally," Roddick said. "I don't know that I want to disrespect the game by coasting home. I had plans to play a smaller schedule next year. But the more I thought about it, I think you've either got to be all in or not."
Roddick said he was announcing his retirement a bit early because he wanted a proper chance to say goodbye.
Andrew Stephen Roddick captured the U.S. Open as a spry 21-year-old in 2003, but who knew then that would be the only Grand Slam title of his career. (Enter Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.)
Roddick, who turned pro in 2000, would cement his place inside the top 10 for nine straight years (2002-2010) thanks to unrivaled determination, and, of course, that howitzer of a serve, which has been clocked as fast as 155 miles per hour, a record at the time set in a Davis Cup match in 2004.
He became the youngest American to finish a year at No. 1, which he did in 2003, but his stay atop the men's rankings was short-lived, thanks to a guy named Federer.
Despite his brief reign, Roddick still managed to be the face of American tennis throughout most of the 2000s.
"It's been a pleasure. It's not something that's easy every day, for sure, especially when you get kind of anointed at a young age, 17, 18," Roddick said. "It's something you roll with. For the moments where it's been hard, I've had 25 positive things that have come from it. Again, anything that people may view as tough, I've been very lucky and very fortunate. I've gotten a lot of opportunities. I wouldn't trade away a day of it. I've loved every minute."
It's probably safe to say that Roddick will not be hoisting the trophy in Flushing next weekend, which would mean he's captured 32 singles titles (third-most among active players) in 52 career finals, including the '03 Open, and was a four-time Grand Slam runner-up, all to Federer. The gunslinger, who is third among active players with 610 match wins, gave way to Federer in the 2006 U.S. Open final and lost to the super Swiss in a trio of Wimbledon finales, including that heartbreaking defeat three years ago when Federer edged Roddick in a memorable five-set affair that featured an epic 30-game fifth set. The loss seemed to rip out Roddick's heart and he was never quite the same player afterward.
"But let's forget about that," Federer said of that match. "He was in those Wimbledon finals. He could have gotten that title. That's what I said when I beat him in '09. He deserves this title, as well. In my mind, he is a Wimbledon champion as well, a wonderful ambassador for the game."
Roddick has been plagued by injuries over the last couple of years and decided that he was no longer healthy enough or committed enough to contend with the world's best players.
He did show some signs of resurgence this summer by capturing a grass-court title in Eastbourne and a hardcourt championship in Atlanta, but the wins did not come in star-studded fields, and Roddick probably already knew the retirement writing was on the wall.
With that victory in Eastbourne, Roddick made sure he titled at least once in each of the last 12 years, which is another testament to his consistency.
Roddick's Achilles heel, of course, was clay, as evidenced by his failure to reach even one quarterfinal in 10 tries at the French Open. And his on-court decorum (on all surfaces) was, at times, immature and brutish, as he treated chair umpires and/or linesmen like they were something on the bottom of his shoes. Hardly the behavior of a gentleman.
In addition to his ATP World Tour prowess, Roddick loved to represent his country by playing Davis Cup, as only John McEnroe has won more singles matches for the U.S. in that prestigious international team competition. Roddick helped the Americans end a 12-year Davis Cup drought by leading them to a title in 2007.
Roddick is also the last American man to win a Grand Slam championship.
The wealthy Roddick is currently 11th on the ATP's all-time money list with more than $20.5 million earned, and he's made several millions of dollars off the court via endorsements over the years.
Aside from settling down with his supermodel/actress wife, Brooklyn Decker, Roddick said he will get more involved with a youth tennis center he's starting in Austin, Texas. He also said he has other projects in mind "that excite me a lot right now."
A 20th-seeded Roddick, who reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals a year ago, is scheduled to play 19-year-old promising Aussie Bernard Tomic inside the vast and what figures to be an electric Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday night, and you can be sure he'll be the heavy favorite, even more so than usual, under the stars in the Big Apple.
The New York crowd knows it will get its money's worth in terms of effort from Roddick for the rest of this fortnight, it just doesn't know how many more wins it will see.
"I think I wanted an opportunity to say goodbye to people," Roddick said. "I hope it goes well and I hope I'm sticking around."