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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Andy Roddick's Retirement and His Career in Perspective

Andy Roddick announced Thursday that he would retire after the US Open. The announcement created a flood of polar opposite reactions, just like Andy and his game did for more than a decade. Some tennis enthusiasts will miss Andy as the stalwart of American men's tennis since Andre and Pete retired. Others will not miss him because they either think he did not live up to his potential, did not like his game, or did not like his swagger and biting wit.

For me, I will miss watching Andy Roddick after this Open. In multiple ways I feel Andy was a victim of his timing in American tennis and does not fully get the credit he deserves. Hopefully, he will be seen as a champion and get his full appreciation over the next few days. This certainly seemed to be the case in his match versus Bernard Tomic of Australia last night.

In my mind Roddick would have won at least 3 or 4 grand slams if it was not for than man known as "Darth" Federer. The two champions played some amazing matches; most notably the longest men's final at Wimbledon in 2009 where Roddick had the match on his strings. Although Federer holds a 21-3 lifetime record against Roddick this should not be a point of disregarding Andy's excellence. Instead, it is just another statistic that points out that Roddick was competing at the same time as the greatest tennis champion.

Roddick was a victim of playing at the height of Federer's dominance. Their paths often crossed in finals and unfortunately Andy was unable to get the win at Wimbledon or the US Open. Roddick was also a victim of falling in tow with a line of American champions going back a long time in history. The American tennis public thought Roddick would be the next great champion following the lines of Ashe, Connors, McEnroe, Courier, Sampras, and Agassi.

With hindsight we know now that crowning Andy as 6- or 8-time slam winner was a bit hasty. He won the 2003 US Open and looked as though he could dominate the top of the game with his huge serve and forehand. But, then something peculiar happened. Timing was not in Andy's favor again. Just as Andy became #1 in the world the game evolved quickly. Several young players started entering the tour that were able to block and return Andy's huge serve and actually outhit Andy on the forehand. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray would put a brick wall around the grand slam weekends and with Federer begin to create the Top 4 phenomenon.

So, timing can be cruel but also give you a window of opportunity. Roddick capitalized on his window at the 2003 US Open. Maybe he should have won more slams, but it does not taint the amazing career that Roddick has amassed. In the top 10 for a decade and 32 tour titles are not something to dismiss, but instead something to celebrate.

What I like most about Andy is that he would not make excuses for his career. He won a grand slam but simply lost to great players which kept him from multiple slams. So, as we look back on Roddick's career appreciate him as a champion and respect his professional approach to the game. Whether or not you agree with his game style or disputes with the media, Roddick was a professional who understood what it meant to prepare and work hard.

“I was pretty good for a long time,” Roddick said, when he was asked what he was most proud of. “The reason I gave earlier about not feeling like I could be committed to this thing a hundred percent, that's one of the things I'm proud of. That for 13 or 14 years, I was invested fully, every day. I've seen a lot of people throughout that time be invested for a year, kind of tap out for a year, come back. I've been pretty good about keeping my nose to the grindstone.” (heart speaks, Roddick listens)
This quote epitomizes another thing about Roddick I admire. Andy was a professional and understood the dedication, commitment, and hard work it takes to stay at the top of the game. How else was able to stay in the Top 10 for so long? So, while some want to poke holes in Roddick's career I say we appreciate it and learn from Andy Roddick to not make excuses for your results and to be a consistent professional.

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