Did anyone see that coming? Andy Roddick caught the tennis world off guard by announcing that he will step away from the game following this year's U.S. Open. The decision will bring an end to a career that has brought mixed results. A decade ago, Roddick was one of the most highly touted young stars in tennis. Since then, he has experienced moderate success, but never quite lived up to the hype that once surrounded him. The expectations placed on Roddick may have been unrealistic. It's also possible that he simply failed to reach his full potential, or a combination of the two. Before we speculate, let's consider what Roddick did achieve.
No American man has won a Grand Slam Singles title since 2003. At the U.S. Open that year, a 21 year old playing in front of his home country made an impressive run through the tournament. In the final, Andy Roddick cruised to a straight set victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain. The win came on the heels of American legend Pete Sampras' Open championship the year before, a record 14th Grand Slam title for Sampras, whose retirement ceremony was held at the start of the 2003 U.S. Open. Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup coach at the time, referred to Roddick's title as "a great passing of the baton" in American tennis.
The baton may have been passed, but the pace slowed significantly. Over the past several years, men's tennis has been dominated by foreign players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic. Meanwhile, Americans have lagged behind. To Roddick's credit, he's consistently battled and has remained among the best in the world throughout his career. The 32 career tournament victories he's collected rank as the third most among active players. Don't worry about his financial situation either. Roddick has raked in more than twenty million dollars in prize money.
In the 1990s, the Buffalo Bills famously lost four consecutive Super Bowls. Andy Roddick's career was much like those Bills teams. He was constantly on the verge of victory, but with the exception of the 2003 U.S. Open, could never quite get over the edge at Grand Slam events. Much of the blame goes to Federer, who thwarted Roddick's title hopes time and time again, defeating him three times in the Wimbledon final and once in a U.S. Open final. Following Roddick's retirement announcement, Federer paid him the ultimate compliment: "In my mind, he is a Wimbledon champion, a wonderful ambassador for the game".
Due in large part to the outstanding competition he faced, Roddick fell short of becoming one of the sport's all-time greats. That said, he's represented his country well, and has experienced more success in his career than most other tennis players ever do.
Aaron Griggs has enjoyed watching tennis for a long time, and began playing the sport when he chose it for a P.E. elective in college.
Associated Press, "Andy Roddick announces retirement", ESPN
Associated Press, "Roddick beats Ferrero in straight sets to win U.S. Open", Sports Illustrated
Telegraph Sport, "US Open 2012: Roger Federer leads the tributes to retiring Andy Roddick", The Telegraph