At about 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday evening in New York, six days after his blockbuster announcement that he was retiring after the US Open, Andy Roddick's farewell tour came to an end.
Roddick won the first set and forced a second-set tiebreaker against seventh-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, but he ran out of steam from there, falling 7-6 6-7 2-6 4-6 to conclude a career marked by pace, resolve and charisma.
He rose to prominence by bludgeoning opponents into submission with his booming serve. He enjoyed some of his greatest success during a brief stretch as Roger Federer's primary foil until other rivals eclipsed him. And he fought valiantly to remain in the top 10 in the world for about a decade until injuries and age diminished his serve and forced him to rely more on his oft-inconsistent groundstrokes.
Roddick's career may never have reached the heights many expected, yet he generated many memorable moments during his decade-long run as the face of American men's tennis. Here are eight that will forever be part of his legacy:
1. 2009 Wimbledon final: No match defined Roddick's career more perfectly than his heart-wrenching five-set classic against the man who always seemed to keep him from reaching tennis immortality. Roddick had lost to Federer convincingly in three previous Grand Slam finals and 18 of 20 matches in his career at that time, but he never lost his resolve. Trailing two sets to one, he rallied to win the fourth set 6-3 and held serve from behind nine times in the fifth set. Federer didn't exhale until his first service break of the match gave him a win 16-14 in the fifth set for his record 15th Grand Slam. "I couldn't break Andy until the very, very end," Federer said. "I really thought I had to play my very, very best to come through."
2. 2003 US Open final: Roddick captured his lone Grand Slam title at age 21 with a memorable display of serving prowess. In a match in which he lost only six first-serve points, Roddick closed it out in style, winning match point with his 22nd ace to clinch a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero. When a tearful Roddick headed into the stands to find his coach, Brad Gilbert, and his parents, it would have been difficult to believe this would be the only time he experienced this joy. "I'm in disbelief right now," Roddick told reporters afterward. "It's so far-fetched for me. I came here as a fan so much when I was younger. It is an absolute privilege to have my name on the trophy."
3. 2007 Davis Cup: In an era when many top Americans avoided Davis Cup because of the toll it took on their bodies, Roddick embraced the opportunity to represent his country. He boasted a 33-12 all-time record in Davis Cup play, but his greatest success came in 2007 when he won all six matches he played to lead the US team to its most recent title. In the final against Russia, Roddick won his lone match, routing Dimitry Tursunov in straight sets. He and team-mates James Blake and Mike and Bob Bryan then showered one-another with beer during the celebration as red, white and blue confetti fell all around them.
4. 2008 Australian Open outburst: If Roddick's booming serve is his most enduring quality, then his penchant for withering sarcasm is certainly a close second. At the Australian Open in 2008, Roddick became incensed with umpire Emmanuel Joseph during a five-set loss to German Philipp Kohlschreiber when Joseph ruled Roddick could not have played a ball that instant replay showed had hit the baseline. Roddick claimed he let it go because of the lines judge's "out" call, prompting this entertaining diatribe. "Do you have to be like a second grade dropout to be an umpire?" Roddick said. 2Did you go to school until you were eight years old? I think you quit school before you were 10." He then addressed the crowd, adding, "Stay in school kids or you'll end up being an umpire."
5. 2003 Australian Open quarter-final: At 11-10 in the fifth set against Younes el Aynaoui, Roddick had an opportunity to serve out the match but let it slip through his fingers. It took him another hour to get another one. Roddick won the longest match of his career 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 in one minute short of five hours thanks to his usual blend of powerful serves and occasional forays to the net. "I'm extremely humbled by this victory," he told reporters afterward. "It was really special playing that fifth set. I'm sure Younes and I knew it was something special."
6. 2011 Memphis final: Roddick certainly had won bigger tournaments before, but even he admitted he had never hit a better shot. At match point of a thrilling 7-6 (5), 6-7 (11), 7-5 victory over Milos Raonic, Roddick scrambled after a backhand volley from Raonic that appeared destined to level the final game at deuce. Instead Roddick left his feet, dove for the ball and somehow uncorked a passing shot winner to avoid a decisive tiebreak and secure the tournament championship. "I don't really remember much else besides the fact that I went for the ball, I hit it, I didn't really think much of it," Roddick said. "Then I heard people cheering. I was like, 'No, there's no way that went in.' I guess it did."
7. 2008 Sony Ericsson Open quarter-finals: Mired in an 11-match losing streak against nemesis Federer, Roddick at last broke through. He turned in a superb quarter-final performance in Miami, outlasting the world's No. 1-ranked player 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-3. "I figure I was due," Roddick said. "He hadn't missed a ball in a crucial moment for about six years against me. I figured the law of statistics had to come my way eventually." Alas, Roddick didn't have long to enjoy his win. He lost to Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-finals.
8. 2012 US Open round of 16: Roddick may not have unleashed a miracle run in the final tournament of his career, but in fitting fashion he fought valiantly until the finish. Facing match point against him on his own serve, Roddick shook off the emotion of a standing ovation from the crowd and won the next three points on his serve to stave off retirement one more game. In some ways, it didn't matter since Del Potro closed out the match on his serve seconds later. In others, it meant everything since the man with perhaps the best serve in men's tennis history shouldn't go out on a service break.
Roddick acknowledges the crowd after his defeat to Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina at the US Open (Reuters)
Jeff Eisenberg, Yahoo! Sports
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