Andy Roddick announced his retirement on Thursday, saying his tennis career will close at the US Open, the site of his biggest triumph.
The 2003 champion at Flushing Meadows and former No.1-ranked player decided to walk away from the sport whenever his US Open ends, making the surprise announcement at a news conference on his 30th birthday.
“I just feel like it’s time,” said Roddick.
“I don’t know that I’m healthy enough or committed enough to go another year. I’ve always wanted to, in a perfect world, finish at this event. I have a lot of family and friends here. I’ve thought all year that I would know when I got to this tournament. When I was playing my first round, I knew.”
He is scheduled to play 19-year-old Bernard Tomic of Australia in the second round on Friday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Roddick’s departure will leave US tennis without a single Grand Slam winner on the men’s circuit, but Thursday did bring a spate of victories by American men, two who are Roddick’s contemporaries and good pals (32-year-old James Blake and 30-year-old Mardy Fish), and two who have been viewed as possible successors as the best in the country (19-year-old Jack Sock and 24-year-old Sam Querrey).
“I had a feeling, thought it might be, because he’s someone who puts heart and soul into every match. It gets tougher as you get older, and I don’t think he could keep doing it the same way,” said Blake.
Another winner Thursday was Roger Federer, who beat Roddick in all four Grand Slam finals they played against each other: one at the US Open and three at Wimbledon.
“I’ve had some great battles with him for a long, long time,” Federer said.
“The Wimbledon finals come to mind, the ones we played together. He’s a great, great competitor and a great champion, really.”
Looking ahead to Friday, Federer said Roddick “truly deserves a great ovation, a great atmosphere, a great crowd. … I’m definitely going to watch it. It’s not one to miss, and I hope it’s not his last.”
Querrey also echoed the sentiments of plenty of others about Roddick’s decision.
“He’s been my biggest role model the last 10 years, playing tennis, watching tennis. He’s been a really great guy, a great leader to us all. Nice and kind. Really generous to the up-and-comers,” Querrey said.
“For me, for … the 18-year-olds now, he’s just been an unbelievable champion, a Hall of Famer.”
While few seemed to have an inkling that Roddick would say farewell during these two weeks, 14-time major champion Serena Williams, for one, was not taken aback.
“He told me a while ago – last year – that this would be it,” she said.
“We were talking about it. I was just thinking, ‘Change your mind, Andy. Change your mind.’ But I guess he didn’t.”
Buoyed by a booming serve and big forehand, Roddick is 610-212 (a .742 winning percentage) with 32 titles, including two this year at Atlanta and Eastbourne. He also helped the United States end a 12-year David Cup drought by winning the 2007 title.
Roddick has been dealing with a series of injuries over the past few seasons, and in February dropped out of the top 20, then slid to No. 34 in March, his lowest ranking since 2001.
A hamstring injury forced Roddick to retire during his second-round match at the Australian Open in January, and he lost in the first round at the French Open and third round at Wimbledon.
“With the way my body feels, with the way that I’m able to feel like I’m able to compete now, I don’t know that it’s good enough,” Roddick explained.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been someone who’s interested in ‘existing’ on tour.”