Andy Roddick, the last American man to win a Grand Slam tennis title, will retire after the U.S. Open, the site of his only major championship and the place where as a kid he snuck in to see his heroes.
Roddick announced his decision yesterday on his 30th birthday, 25 hours before a second-round match against Bernard Tomic at the National Tennis Center in New York.
Roddick became the second Grand Slam champion to make this year’s U.S. Open a career-ending tournament, joining three-time winner Kim Clijsters of Belgium.
“I don’t feel like I’m healthy enough or committed enough to go another year,” Roddick, who has struggled with a hamstring injury this year, told reporters at a hastily convened news conference. “I’ve always wanted to, in a perfect world, finish at this event.”
Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003 and lost Wimbledon finals in 2004, 2005 and 2009 to Roger Federer of Switzerland. He also lost the 2006 U.S. Open final to Federer and reached the semifinals of the Australian Open four times.
Roddick has won more than $20 million in a career that has included 32 titles. Since his sole Grand Slam victory, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won 32 of the 35 majors.
“It’s a matter of how I feel, and frankly these guys have gotten really, really, really good,” Roddick said. “I’m not sure that, with compromised health, I’m able to do what I want to do right now.”
Roddick, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, made his debut at the U.S. Open as a junior in 1998. His first professional match at the year’s final Grand Slam tournament came in 2000.
His connection with the U.S. Open goes much further back. He reminisced yesterday about sneaking into the main stadium to watch Jimmy Connors making a run to the semifinals in 1991, and about a daring move a year earlier.
“I came here in, I think it was 1990, with my parents as a birthday present,” he told reporters. “I snuck into the players’ lounge without a credential. I saw Pete (Sampras). He was playing video games. I’m pretty sure I beat him at like Mortal Kombat or something. That was fun.”
Roddick, who was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2003, is currently 22nd -- second among American men to No. 10 John Isner.
The nine-year American title drought in men’s Grand Slam singles is a record. Roddick’s departure will leave the U.S. with only one active male player who has advanced beyond the quarterfinals of a major tournament -- Robby Ginepri, now ranked 234th in the world, who was a U.S. Open semifinalist in 2005.
Federer, 31, who after his second-round victory last night against Bjorn Phau of Germany urged fans to support Roddick in his match tonight against Australia’s Tomic, said the American has had “an amazing career.”
“I’m thankful for everything he’s done for the game, especially here for tennis in America,” Federer said in a news conference. “It’s not been easy after Agassi and Sampras, Courier, Chang, Connors, McEnroe, you name it.”
Jon Vegosen, chairman of the U.S. Tennis Association, said in a statement that Roddick -- whose 33 Davis Cup singles wins rank second among Americans to John McEnroe’s 41 -- “has always been an outstanding ambassador for our sport and our country.”
Serena Williams, 30, said after her second-round victory yesterday that she’d known since last year that Roddick would announce his retirement.
“He told me a while ago, last year, that this would be it,” Williams told reporters. “He told me again. I was at his house in Austin at the end of the year. I was just thinking, change your mind, Andy, change your mind. But I guess he didn’t.”
Clijsters, 29, who won four Grand Slam titles, said before the event that she would retire after the U.S. Open. She lost in the second round in singles and had a first-round defeat in women’s doubles. She’ll complete her tennis career by pairing with Bob Bryan of the U.S. in the mixed doubles.
Roddick said he plans to spend much of his time at the 11- year-old Andy Roddick Foundation in his home town of Austin, Texas, and that he knew he no longer could devote himself 100 percent to playing tennis.
“I’ve never done anything halfway,” he said. “Probably the first time in my career that I can sit here and say I’m not sure that I can put everything into it physically and emotionally. I don’t know that I want to disrespect the game by coasting home.”
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