For 13 years, Andy Roddick gave all he had physically, emotionally and mentally to professional tennis, but after his first-round victory over Rhyne Williams Tuesday at the 2012 US Open, he knew he could not do it any longer.
Roddick was not going to continue playing the game that meant so much to him and he loved so much halfway. He had talked about it before with his wife, Brooklyn Decker, his coach Larry Stefanki and trainer Doug Spreen, as well as with many of his friends, but it was Tuesday night he knew for sure.
It was time to walk away. So after 13 years, 32 singles titles, including one Grand Slam, and a world No. 1 ranking, Roddick announced on his 30th birthday Thursday that he is retiring from professional tennis after the 2012 US Open.
“I just feel like it’s time. I don’t know that I’m healthy enough or committed enough to go another year. I’ve always wanted to, in a perfect world, finish at this event (the US Open). I’ve thought all year that I would know when I got to this tournament,” Roddick said. “When I was playing my first round, I knew.
“I've always, for whatever my faults have been, felt like I've never done anything halfway,” he added. “It's 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. I don't know that I want to disrespect the game by coasting home. It was Brooke's and my little secret of the last few days. I talked to Larry and Doug today. We had talked about it throughout the year, obviously. Talked to a bunch of friends that are here. It’s time.”
Even though 30 is a young age by life standards, he also pointed out that Roger Federer is really the only one of his contemporaries still playing at age 31, having outlasted many of his peers from his early days and junior years.
Roddick, currently ranked No. 22, has won two singles titles in 2012 at Atlanta and Eastbourne. However, he has struggled with injuries in recent years, including tearing a tendon in his hamstring earlier this year, which forced him to retire from his second-round match at the Australian Open, and an ankle injury shortly thereafter in San Jose. In 2011, he suffered injuries to both his oblique muscle and his shoulder, which forced him out of the French Open, among other tournaments. He finished the year ranked outside the top 10 for the first time since 2001.
One of the most celebrated American male players, “A-Rod” has always been known for his lightning-fast serve and powerful forehand. He held the record for fastest serve ever recorded on the ATP Tour at 155 mph, set on a hard court during the Davis Cup semifinals in Charleston, S.C., in September 2004. The record was broken in March 2011, when Ivo Karlovic hit a serve at 156 mph.
He remains the last U.S. man to win a Grand Slam title, which he recorded at the 2003 US Open, the same year he ascended to No. 1 in the world for the first time.
Besides bringing the power on every shot, Roddick was known for his passion for the game and occasionally for his temper and various outbursts on the court, for which he was often criticized. He was also always honest, fun-loving and had a quick-witted sense of humor, which made him a fan favorite.
Roddick played in four other Grand Slam finals and found himself the runner-up to longtime rival Federer. He never won another Grand Slam after 2003 and never won Wimbledon, a tournament that he said was a dream of his to win, but as he looks back now, he said there is not much he would redo, realizing how lucky he was to be one of the best tennis players in the world for over a decade.
“I don't know that I would change much. Obviously, I think everybody would want to win a match or two more. Had I won a match or two more, we'd be looking back at something a little bit different. But that's also shaped kind of who I am and how I've been able to learn,” he said. “At the end of the day, I know that people view it as a career, last little while, of some hard knocks. But I got to play. I got to play in a crowd, play in Wimbledon finals, be the guy on a Davis Cup team for a while. Those are opportunities not a lot of people get.
“I was pretty good for a long time,” he added. “For 13 or 14 years, I was invested fully every day.”
In his thoughts leading up to his retirement decision, he considered playing a limited schedule in 2012 but thought better of it.
“You are all in or not,” he said.
He always talked about his affection for the US Open, speaking of the tournament often as a combination of both sports and entertainment and saying he felt privileged to be able to spend his birthday at the tournament each year. He had thought about making this his last tournament, the place he remembered first coming to visit as a fan with his parents in 1990 as a birthday present and, in a surprise to no one now, said he was able to sneak around and make the most of the experience.
“I snuck into the players’ lounge without a credential,” he remembered. “I saw Pete (Sampras). He was playing video games. I’m pretty sure I beat him at like Mortal Kombat or something. That was fun.
“I always enjoyed the energy,” he added of the US Open. “This is a show. It’s New York City, in every way. I’m glad that I’ve been a very, very small part.”
Roddick, originally from Omaha, Neb., lived in Austin, Texas, his current residence, for much of his childhood before moving to Boca Raton, Fla., where he played high school basketball with fellow American and close friend Mardy Fish. The two lived and trained together in 1999, and he also trained with now longtime friends Serena and Venus Williams.
After her second-round match Thursday, Serena, also 30, said she knew it was coming and that she will miss seeing her good friend compete.
“I knew for awhile. I’ve known Andy for so many years, since we were 10 years old,” she said. “He told me this would probably be his last tournament. I was hoping he would change his mind, but I guess not. I love him, we all love him here. He’s been so amazing for American men’s tennis and really exciting to watch, so I am so sad to see another face gone.”
Roddick had been heralded since he was a junior player, ascending to the world No. 1 boys' ranking and winning both the US Open and Australian Open boys’ singles titles in 2000. He played his first professional match, a Futures tournament, in 1999 and turned pro in 2000, earning his first ATP Tour win in Miami that year by beating then-world No. 41 Fernando Vicente of Spain. It would be the first of 609 career match wins.
Always eager to represent his country, Roddick retires as one of the greatest players in U.S. Davis Cup history. For years, he was the “closer” -- the one looked upon to lead the team and come through whenever it ended a victory. He led the team to its last Davis Cup title in 2007, going undefeated in five Davis Cup matches throughout the year. Roddick now leaves the game with 33 Davis Cup singles victories, second all-time in U.S. Davis Cup team history to John McEnroe, dating from 2001-10.
Roddick and Federer played a memorable Grand Slam final at 2009 Wimbledon, an extremely well-played match and serve-fest. Federer clinched the win with his only break of Roddick in the match to win 5–7, 7–6, 7–6, 3–6, 16–14. Federer also defeated him in 2004 and 2005 to win the title, and many thought Roddick would have won many more Grand Slams without being in the same era and prime as the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
This year at the All England Club, Roddick seemed to be saying goodbye to the crowd when he lost to world No. 5 David Ferrer in the third round, waving and blowing kisses as he left the court and bringing speculation that perhaps it was his last time there. He would not confirm it at the time, but he confirmed Thursday that it was indeed goodbye.
As for future plans, he is going to devote even more time to the Andy Roddick Foundation and joked he will no longer be a “dead-beat dad” to his dog, Billie Jean, who was at home without him for much of the past few years. He said he still loves hitting tennis balls and will miss the relationships the most on the tour every day.
He still has at least one more match to go, against Bernard Tomic in the second round Friday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium. He doesn’t know if he will play well or horribly but will enjoy it nonetheless.
“I don’t think I am foolish enough to think it’s all going to be easy,” he said of moving on. “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 wouldn't trade away a day of it,” he added. “I've loved every minute.”
Follow Senior Writer Erin Bruehl on Twitter @ErinBruehl.