Andy Roddick saw the writing on the wall. Now the last American player to win one of the four grand slam tournaments in men's tennis is hanging up his racket for good.
Roddick announced Thursday, on his 30th birthday, that he will retire from tennis at the end of the 2012 U.S. Open. His health is one factor that influenced the retirement decision. Roddick has struggled with lingering back and shoulder injuries throughout much of the 2012 season. He no longer feels convinced that his body can take the grind of pro tennis.
There is also the issue of competitiveness. Since losing to Roger Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon final, Roddick has experienced a slow decline in his game. He has not advanced beyond a grand slam quarterfinal the past three years. Injuries and poor results dropped him out of the top 10 in 2012 and have made Roddick look like a shell of his former self.
Roddick should be commended for knowing when to quit. Many athletes linger past their prime in a futile attempt to catch one more moment of glory. Why should he tarnish a strong tennis career with a growing series of early exits from major tournaments? Roddick has 32 career titles and really has nothing left to prove.
With his retirement, Roddick leaves a hole in American tennis. He is the last remnant of a golden era that featured Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors winning multiple grand slam tournaments each year.
Roddick only won the 2003 U.S. Open in his career. But he finished as a runner-up at the 2006 U.S. Open and took second three times at Wimbledon in 2004, 2005 and 2009. And, at one time, he rose to become the no. 1 ranked player in the world.
The problem for Roddick is he has always been a step behind the big three of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Roddick did what he could to keep pace. He worked on improving his footwork and volleys to add another component to his game beyond blistering serves and powerful forehands. His efforts were not quite enough to help him overcome Federer in all those grand slam finals. Now that age and injuries have caught up with Roddick, it seems like a virtually impossible task to close that gap.
Roddick chose to announce his retirement at the U.S. Open this week because he wants to finish his career out on his home soil. This is Roddick's way of ending on his own terms. For a decade, he has carried the banner for U.S. men's tennis almost singlehandedly. Now the time has come for him to pass the torch onto the next generation.
John Coon has covered tennis at all levels as a sports reporter based in Salt Lake City. Coon was raised in a tennis loving family. All three of his sisters played competitively and Coon himself enjoys playing at a recreational level.