September 7, 2012
"It was like he couldn’t help himself; he had to try."

— Louisa Thomas on Andy Roddick not giving up on a set in his final match.

12:58am  |   URL:
Filed under: sports tennis 
September 7, 2012
A fond farewell to American tennis's almost-golden boy

A fantastic article about Andy Roddick by Louisa Thomas. I never really thought about it this way, but Roddick really does represent what America is all about.  Roddick doesn’t give up.  He doesn’t pretend to be happy about failure.  Yet he accepts it and keeps fighting - despite disappointments.

In fact, Roddick does seem to embody America in some essential way. The man has the stars and stripes splashed across his shoes. He committed himself to helping his country win the Davis Cup with the same intensity that he threw himself into winning slams. He lives in Texas. Given the chance, he dated a pop star and married a model. Roddick is a mess of contradictions that speak to a kind of enduring American stereotype: smart-ass, arrogant, and intemperate, but also straight-shooting, generous, and thoughtful. He wasn’t the best — but he lived up to that old American slogan that he did his best.

"I keep hearing how great all these guys hit the ball," Sports Illustrated quoted Roddick saying. “People just drool over so-and-so’s this or that. And then I hear how I can’t really do anything. But yet, I beat all these guys consistently. That kind of lends itself to me being a really good bad player.” Talk about backhanded compliments. But Roddick didn’t pretend he was something he wasn’t.

For an example of how much that meant, look no further than Roddick’s second-round match against Bernard Tomic. Tomic is a young, talented, and unusual player, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon last year. One of the reasons Roddick indicated that he’d chosen his 30th birthday to announce his coming retirement was that there was a solid chance he would lose. Roddick has had an up-and-down year, hampered by injuries but winning two titles and even beating Federer. Still, most people weren’t favoring Roddick in the match.

But he spanked Tomic — and Tomic folded, losing so badly that he faced accusations of tanking. Roddick won his next match, an entertaining scrapper against Fabio Fognini. And suddenly it appeared that he might have found some magic in the warmth of the adoring crowd, that he might be able to ride this wave of affection deep into the second week. In the fourth round, he faced another former U.S. Open winner with a huge forehand, Juan Martin del Potro. Over the course of two days, with rain interrupting the first, Roddick pushed del Potro, winning the first-set tiebreaker and losing the second. But del Potro, who reminds me of a rangy bear with a grizzly’s swipe for a forehand, shook off his sleep. Once he started moving well, it quickly became clear that Roddick would lose.

After Roddick went down two quick breaks in the third set, there was a consensus in the commentators’ box that Roddick should conserve his energy and write off the set. Roddick seemed to hear them — or maybe he was just too tired to move with the same intensity he’d shown at the start. But down double-set point on del Petro’s serve in the third — in a set in which Roddick didn’t have a chance, in a game that, from a tactical point of view, he would be better off losing — he was still scrambling, sliding, desperately reaching for the ball. It was like he couldn’t help himself; he had to try. But he pushed a backhand long.

Soon after that, it was over. When he lost, there were no Americans left in the tournament. Yet again, he had been the last one standing. Does that matter? I don’t think so. The top men are playing sublime tennis, and I don’t care what their nationality is. They are playing the kind of tennis I love to watch. But the sport will still miss Roddick, and so, it turns out, will I.