Home »  Sport

US Open: Roddick left to carry burden of US hopes for the final time

Tuesday, 4 September 2012 - 11:58am IST Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2012 - 3:24pm IST | Place: NEW YORK | Agency: DNA
'US Tennis needs a new hero' claimed the headline in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. But it might have to wait a little longer, judging by what we have seen in New York over the last 48 hours.

"US Tennis needs a new hero" claimed the headline in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. But it might have to wait a little longer, judging by what we have seen in New York over the last 48 hours.

As John Isner crashed out in the third round of the US Open, and Mardy Fish withdrew because of health concerns, we were left with just one American male still standing. Yet again, that man was perennial US flag-bearer Andy Roddick.

World No 1 Roger Federer received a walkover into the quarter-finals, where he will face sixth seed Tomas Berdych or Spain's Nicolas Almagro, after Fish pulled out of their match.

"I regret I had to withdraw for precautionary measures. I am following medical advice," said Fish, who underwent medical treatment in May to correct faulty wiring in his heart.

Roddick's progress to the fourth round is a nice story for the broadcasters and reporters who have revelled in his farewell tour. Thanks to the announcement of his imminent retirement last Thursday (his 30th birthday) his matches against Bernard Tomic and Fabio Fognini gained an extra frisson of intrigue. Would this be the moment when the 20,000-plus fans on Arthur Ashe get to roar him into the sunset?

Both results went Roddick's way, and now the ratings for tonight's (Tuesday's) match against Juan Martin del Potro - the 2009 US Open champion - will surely be off the scale. But once the eulogies have run out, Roddick's departure will leave a void at the heart of American sport. He has been a significant figure, and not just because of the speed of his serve - which touched 155mph at its peak - or his 32 titles.

Roddick has a charisma that few athletes can match. Like another American tennis giant - John McEnroe - he was considerably sharper and smarter than most of the people who sought to interview him. Or, indeed, who officiated at his matches.

His most famous rant came at the Australian Open four years ago, when he spent a good minute berating the umpire before turning to the crowd and quipping "Stay in school, kids, or you'll end up being an umpire".

Like McEnroe, as well as Andre Agassi, Roddick mixed with - and dated - showbiz celebrities. He went out with the singer and actress Mandy Moore, before marrying swimwear model and actress Brooklyn Decker. His all-American looks made him a billboard icon, although the expensive campaign run by American Express in the build-up to the 2005 US Open - entitled "Where's Andy's mojo?" - backfired badly when he lost to unseeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg in the first round.

After that, Roddick toned down the jokes a little, but he remained a crowd favourite. In 2009, his marathon 16-14 defeat by Federer in the Wimbledon final earned him huge appreciation as a gallant loser. While Andy Murray wept copiously after losing to Federer two months ago, Roddick came up with a typically cute line, saying "I threw everything and the kitchen sink at him, so he went into the bathroom and got the tub".

His only grand slam came when he had just turned 21, and many expected him to go on and dominate. But he never quite had the ammunition to be a world-beater over a sustained period. The serve was untouchable, the forehand a piledriver. But the volley was erratic and the two-fisted backhand lacked the smoothness of a Murray or a Novak Djokovic. What he did have was perseverance and guts.

Roddick's shoes have been decorated with the stars and stripes for this, his last tournament. But who will fill them at next year's US Open? Roddick himself has been giving plenty of help and encouragement to 20-year-old Ryan Harrison, but he seems to lack a killer shot. Then there is Jack Sock, a 19 year-old who reached the third round here before going losing to Nicolas Almagro.

But there are no easy answers. American men's tennis has suffered a nine-year drought since Roddick's 2003 US Open (the last slam to be won by an American man).

Sadly for this great tennis nation, there is no one coming through with the obvious potential to end that sequence. Boy, will they miss him when he's gone.


Jump to comments