At US Open, Roddick Is Having His Last Laugh
By KAREN CROUSE
Sure, Andy Roddick said he was retiring, but have you noticed the bounce in his step in his victories against Bernard Tomic and Fabio Fognini?
Barton Silverman/The New York Times
The crowds have rallied behind Andy Roddick, 30, since he revealed on Thursday his plan to retire. More Photos »
No athlete I’ve covered possesses a more puckish sense of humor than Roddick. It would be just like him to face the cameras after his final point of this United States Open, screw his face into an impish smile and let us know we were all the victims of his best practical joke.
Then again, Roddick has never treated the game or any opponent like a joke. For more than a decade, Roddick has been the face of men’s tennis in the United States, a responsibility he continues to take seriously even as he makes us laugh with his sarcastic asides and zinging one-liners. He has embraced his ambassador’s role to the bittersweet end, his retirement announcement infusing life into an Open that at its start was more dead than a bald tennis ball.
It’s a tossup as to which is quicker, Roddick’s rocket serve or his rapier wit. Anyone who dismisses him as a weak volleyer clearly has never been on the other end of one of his verbal exchanges.
Once upon an Open, Roddick was asked about his next opponent, a onetime rival from juniors. Had he imagined then that they would one day square off on America’s grandest tennis stage? “You never think about those things when you’re 10,” he said. “I was worrying how I was going to get money to buy a Frosty at a vending machine. I wasn’t worried about the U.S. Open then.”
That’s Roddick in a sound bite. He’s a master at delivering perspective with a playful spin. For five years I chronicled Roddick’s career for his hometown newspaper, which afforded me a front-row seat for his remarkable run to the 2003 title, his rise to No. 1 and his epic battles, in no particular order, with Roger Federer, various chair umpires and his own dueling natures.
He’s a study in contradictions: a born entertainer who doesn’t like to leave home; a team player in an individual sport; a deep feeler who is quick to give you a piece of his mind or the shirt off his back; a lunch-pail prodigy.