A tear a day. AP Photo/Darron Cummings via Yahoo!
Wow, what a day at the US Open. After yesterday’s virtual rain out, the emotional floodgates opened wide at the National Tennis Center on Wednesday.
On a day that saw Roger Federer lose his first ever night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium (more on that later), it was Andy Roddick who made the biggest waves today.
Andy Roddick lost the last match of his professional career today, going out to Juan Martin Del Potro in a continuation of yesterday’s rain postponed match: 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4. Andy won the first set tiebreak upon his return to the court today, giving all of us hope – you were rooting for Andy, weren’t you? – that he’d live to play at last one more day. Unfortunately, a Sampras-style fairy tale was not in the making for Andy which seems appropriate, given his down-to-earth style and attitude. This is not a guy who reclines in the clouds of greatness, popping grapes with the Tennis Gods. The fruits of his labors – the Davis Cup, a US Open title, a decade in the top 10 and a fistful of Wimbledon finals – have spouted from the stream of sweat that steadily flows off the brim of his baseball cap. Today there were some tears, too. Here’s his on-court farewell:
I’ll miss his press conferences as much as his play. Here are some choice words from his final post-match presser.
Q. What are the emotions?
ANDY RODDICK: I don’t know. You know, playing the last five games was pretty hard. Once I got down a break I could barely look at my box. I don’t know what the emotions are. I’m a little overwhelmed right now. I normally feel like I can grasp things pretty quickly and clearly; I certainly don’t feel that way right now.
Q. How many thoughts were going through your mind? Can you just share one or two? When you’re about to serve or receive, how do you keep things out of your mind? What was running through your mind?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, like I said, it was tough. Once he kind of got up there in that match it was a different set of circumstances than my previous matches. You know, then you start thinking about, you know, how real it is and, you know, a lot of thoughts go through your head. You’re thinking about matches you’re playing when you’re 12 or you’re thinking about ‑‑ you know, I was thinking about my mom driving me to practices all over the place. You just think about a million things. Then all of a sudden you have to play a point against one of the best players in the world. It certainly was a mixed bag there at the end.
Q. I’m assuming you never served with tears in your eyes before; am I right?
ANDY RODDICK: No. I mean, you try to keep it as best you can. I have done better over the last week or so than I thought I would. Like I said, this was all new for me. I had seen most things that this game had to offer, and this was entirely new. It was emotional, but not emotional like we normally have it. It’s normally a very selfish emotion for us. It’s if we do badly then it costs us something; if we do well we get great things. This was about something bigger. It wasn’t about ranking points or paychecks or anything else, you know. It was fun. This week I felt like I was, you know, 12 years old playing in a park. It was extremely innocent. That was fun. I enjoyed it.
Q. You mentioned the day of work and having to explain yourself, good or bad. That is part of the job, especially somebody who has played with your stature. You get the big room. You’re sitting here for the last time talking to us. We have been through highs and lows together. Just kind of final thoughts on your final press conference, your relationship with us.
ANDY RODDICK: (Laughter.) I made a joke when Austin and Tim came and got me. I was walking out of the locker room, and I said, Man, I think I have more expectation of this press conference than I did the match today. So, you know, like you said, I think it’s at the point now where I look back on rough moments fondly, you know, in these rooms. I hope you all do, too. There has certainly been some good ones; there have been some fun I ones. There has been some horrible ones both ways, but it wasn’t boring.
Definitely not, Andy! We’ll miss you.
Andy’s retirement make me sad, because he’s part of the last generation of players who are about my age and who I “grew up with” as my love of the sport grew along with their resumes. AS I witness Kim and Andy retire this year, not to mention Marat, Justine and Martina Hingis in recent years, it feels like I’m losing a little bit of my tennis-fan self. Andy was asked today about which American man would fill his shoes, and I’m asking myself a similar question: Who’s going to replace the holes Andy and Co. have left in this tennis fan’s heart?
No wonder Serena Williams welled up before taking the court to play her quarterfinal vs. Ana Ivanovic. Watching her childhood friend and tennis contemporary leave the game was a downer, but she was back to her ferocious self once under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Ana Ivanovic should be happy enough with the four games she managed to win tonight. We’ll see how Sara Errani fares, the Italian seeming – on first and second glances, at least – cartoonishly over-matched vs. Williams in the semifinals. Maria Sharapova, who won only one game off of Serena in the Olympics gold medal match, takes on Victoria Azarenka in what is sure to be an entertaining semi.
Side note – after my sad sack moment dealing with Andy Roddick’s retirement, it was such a relief to hear Serena tell the ESPN news crew that she and Venus promise each other that they will “never retire” and can’t wait to play in Rio.
And finally, on to another Rio hopeful, Roger Federer, who was bumped out of the tournament in his quarterfinal night match vs. Tomas Berdych, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. There was an interesting set of “intangibles” going into the match: Roger’s 4-day layoff after Mardy Fish withdrew from the Round of 16 probably accounted for at least a bit of the rust showing on his forehand and serve, yet Tomas Berdych seemed unruffled by his first experience playing under the Arthur Ashe lights. The edgy Czech seemed to be taking target practice at times, rifling winners game after game, break after break in front of a shocked and awed New York crowd.
I thought this post-match quote from Berdych was quite revealing (via NYTimes): “With my game, I’m able to make him some trouble. Even if he’s playing well, and we play a match together, there is something in my game that he doesn’t like.”
I, for one, get a sinking feeling whenever Roger plays Berdych. I think it has to do with a half-remembered quote from years ago, when Roger was asked – I think after he won a Wimbledon – who he hadn’t wanted to face in the draw. He answered: “Berdych, for some reason.” It was Berdych, not the schedule, who was the ultimate intangible for Roger tonight.
At least we can always count on Roger to look on the bright side. After his match (via NYTimes): “It’s been amazing (this summer). I could not be more proud. Obviously I don’t need to make too much about that. I just lost a match.”
Berdych will play Andy Murray in the semis. Tipsarevic plays Ferrer and Djokovic takes on Del Potro in the remaining quarterfinals.
What did you think of this emotional Wednesday at the Open?