August 30, 2012

Goodbye, A-Rod

There must be something in the New York water.

Just about a day after Kim Clijsters' singles career ended in the second round of this year's U.S. Open, Andy Roddick announced he would retire after his run at the tournament was over.

Yes, it's been a while since the thirty-year-old was at the very top of the sport -- he ceded the #1 spot to Roger Federer in early 2004, making himself the last champion in the era before the current trifecta of Fed-Nadal-Djokovic took over. But he never went far -- Roddick finished the year in the top-ten every season from 2002 to 2010 and only dropped out of the top twenty late last year. He's won at least one title a year since 2001, including two in 2012 when many thought he was no longer relevant. He's played a handful of Grand Slam finals, winning the 2003 U.S. Open and coming oh-so-close to winning that elusive Wimbledon title just three years ago. Even as his career was winding down, he kept pace with the top guys -- he beat John Isner on his way to the Atlanta title in August and stunned Roger Federer in March with a third round win in Miami.

Roddick's resume may not be quite as decorated as some of his contemporaries -- his thirty-two trophies compare to seventy-six for Roger Federer and only tops Novak Djokovic, five years his junior, by one. But he remains the last American man to win a Major and has been instrumental in developing the young U.S. players of this sport. A fixture on the Davis Cup team for years, he's ushered in the likes of John Isner, Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison, and leaves them in the still-capable hands of Mardy Fish and James Blake. And his foundation focuses on improving the lives of children on and off the court, so his influence on the sport is sure to last a good deal longer.

It's not entirely a surprise to see Roddick announce his retirement. At thirty years of age he's one of the tennis old guard, and while players like Roger and Serena have defied Father Time recently, Roddick has been plagued by various injuries for years. He said he would know by the way he played his first match in New York if he'd be able to continue past the Open, and he knew that he could not.

Like with Clijsters before him, the outpouring of emotion on hearing of Roddick's coming retirement was heavy:

But we're not quite done with him yet. Tomorrow night, under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium, Andy Roddick will take on Australian teenager Bernard Tomic in his second round match. It would be interesting if two veterans' careers were ended by members of the next generation, but this New York crowd will be sure to do everything it can to keep their son's run going just a little while longer. And with so many new players now making their mark on the courts, us old folk will want to treasure that little bit of nostalgia we have remaining.

So the only question left is, "Who's next?"

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