>> Update September 5, 2012: Roddick loses in the fourth round to former champion Del Potro 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4, after a good run at the US Open. Good luck for the future, Andy.
As Roddick’s career comes to a close, he should not be judged only on his one Slam title
After 2003 Andre Agassi added two grand slam titles to his previous eight. Our own Andy Murray has three slam titles in his cabinet. Lleyton Hewitt, during the noughties, raised his tally to five. Nadal is the undisputed King of Wimbledon. No one can touch him at SW19. And Roddick – the all-American boy who announced his retirement today – has also stormed to three titles at the All England Club, to add to his three at the US Open. Down Under, the world’s top five players have divided the spoils almost equally between themselves. And in the Masters series, though dominated by three or four players, the role of honour over the last decade reads more like a smörgåsbord of winners, instead of a menu at Fawlty Towers, with everything off, except the duck.
It didn’t happen. I made it up. And the reason is summed up in one word: Federer. Federer is the duck, if you will.
My figures are not exact. I didn’t subtract Federer from the mix and then award each trophy to each losing finalist. I don’t have the time for that, so allow me some slack. And you won’t have missed that I omitted to mention the French Open, where Nadal has been kicking up dust and taking home trophies every year since the Second World War, or so it seems.
Yet, without the truly great – and still great – Roger, there would have been far fewer players crying in the locker room. Roddick is of course one of these, most notably in the Wimbledon Men’s finals of 2004 and 2005, and almost unbelievably in 2009 when Federer gave the killer blow in the thirtieth game of the fifth set. Like the rest, and as Roddick has said himself, he was born at the wrong time. That isn’t sour grapes: it’s a good grasp of reality. With consistency, fitness and sustained genius (and yes, I do mean genius) the Federer Express rolled into town. Then stayed in the town for what seemed forever, mashing up everything in its path.
That was not an easy time for Roddick to have had his – still excellent – tennis career. I wish it had been different for him. I like the man. He has never really been a genuine favourite with the British though, who, because of their unshakeable conservatism, would never take to such a brash, confident young Texan, sometimes simply because he is American. They wouldn’t tell you that, and perhaps that’s the point.
And ignorance amongst some tennis fans has sometimes shown itself too clearly. His game is much more than his serve. No player could have survived so long in the upper echelons of the game with only a single strength to his game. He’s been a truly great player.
So Andy, I will miss you fingering your cap and fiddling with your shirt. I will cherish the memory of the strength, persistence and belief you showed at Wimbledon in 2009, and throughout your career. And, although I know you deserved more titles, it doesn’t matter now: true fans know you exuded quality and brilliance and that is why they watched you and why they won’t forget.