Before the final game of his tennis career, Andy Roddick took a long look up at the half-filled stands and sighed. His wife, Brooklyn Decker, wiped away tears as the crowd chanted “Let’s Go, Andy.”
Then it was over, a four-set loss to Juan Martin Del Potro that ended when Roddick sent a running forehand wide and long.
The last U.S. man to win a Grand Slam title, and the lone American man left in this year’s tournament, had lost in the U.S. Open’s fourth round for the first time in his career.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” Roddick told the crowd before momentarily choking up. “A lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of great moments along the way.”
Roddick, 30, who six days earlier had announced that he would retire at the end of the tournament, bid farewell to tennis on the court that yielded his biggest win -- the 2003 U.S. Open championship.
Del Potro, 23, the 2009 U.S. Open winner from Argentina and the seventh seed this year, stood on the court clapping for Roddick after his 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-4 victory yesterday in a rain-delayed match that began a night earlier.
Roddick won more than $20 million in a career that included 32 tournament titles and a 612-213 record in singles. He was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2003, and seven times has been the last American man playing in the U.S. Open.
The rain that halted the match two nights ago in a first- set tiebreaker deprived Roddick of a huge, supportive crowd and a familiar setting for his finale. Since Arthur Ashe Stadium opened in 1997, Roddick has played a record 28 night matches there -- winning 20 of them.
The match resumed yesterday afternoon following another rain delay. Roddick won the first set tiebreaker. Del Potro evened the match in another tiebreaker and then took control.
Roddick said he found it very difficult to focus in the last five games of the match.
“You’re thinking about matches you’re playing when you’re 12, or you’re thinking about my mom driving me to practices all over the place,” he said in a news conference. “Then all of a sudden you have to play a point against one of the best players in the world.”
Del Potro advanced to a quarterfinal match against defending champion Novak Djokovic, the second seed from Serbia, who advanced when 18th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland quit while trailing 6-4, 6-1, 3-1. Also reaching the quarterfinals yesterday was No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.
In the women’s quarterfinals yesterday, No. 3 Maria Sharapova of Russia, No. 4 Serena Williams of the U.S. and No. 10 Sara Errani of Italy won to join top-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the semifinals.
Roddick, seeded 20th, won two matches in straight sets after announcing his retirement and entered yesterday’s contest against Del Potro with an 8-0 record in fourth-round matches at the National Tennis Center in New York.
The defeat capped a 13-year pro career for Roddick that included three runner-up finishes to Federer at Wimbledon, a 2007 defeat to Federer in the U.S. Open final and four semifinal appearances at the Australian Open.
Hall of Fame
“He’ll probably get to the International Tennis Hall of Fame because he’s done so many things besides win that one Open,” Bud Collins a tennis historian and journalist, said in an interview. “He had a tremendous career.”
Roddick’s first U.S. Open appearance came at the junior level in 1998. His first professional match at the tennis season’s final Grand Slam was in 2000.
It has been nine years since that title, an American drought in men’s Grand Slam singles that is a record. Roddick’s retirement leaves Robby Ginepri, a 2005 U.S. Open semifinalist now ranked 234th in the world, as the only active U.S. man to advance beyond the quarterfinals of a major tournament.
“You know the burden, I understand it,” Roddick said of being the top American male player of his generation. “I understand the fact that we come from a place which probably had more success than any other tennis country, where there are certain expectations.”
Roddick said his final tournament had been an emotional ride that went far beyond simply winning or losing.
“This was about something bigger, it wasn’t about ranking points or paychecks or anything else,” he told reporters. “It was fun. This week, I felt like I was 12 years old playing in a park. It was extremely innocent. That was fun. I enjoyed it.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at email@example.com