If anyone was going to announce his retirement the way Andy Roddick did on Thursday at the US Open, it was Andy Roddick. Others have done it (just quit), but just quitting like this—as soon as the tournament is over—is the perfect way to go for Roddick.
This is not a criticism. This is to say that we all got to know Roddick really well watching him play the past 10 years or so, and it's always been very clear who he is and what his attitude about tennis is. And from what we know about Roddick, frankly, it seems just right that he should retire without drama or drawn-out waffling.
One reason fans got to know Roddick so well is because of his relationship with the media. Roddick is one of the great interviews in recent sports history, and the press conference he called to announce his retirement was quintessential Roddick.
He started by saying, as broadcast on ESPN2, "All right, well thank you all for coming. I'll make this short and sweet: I've decided that this is going to be my last tournament. I just feel like it's time."
Who is your favorite American male tennis player of all time?
That was it. No notes, no preamble, no poetry. On his 30th birthday no less.
Then the questions came, with the usual friendly banter back and forth between the journalists and Roddick. What would me miss most? Talking to reporters, he joked good-naturedly. Why was he quitting? He's no longer fully invested in the game. He's got a lot of other interests. He'd been thinking about it for a little while and is ready to move on.
Rarely did you feel that you were getting a fake Roddick when he sat behind the microphone. And that was the case again during this most momentous occasion.
The other reason we got to know Roddick so well is because he's a tennis player.
One of tennis' great appeals is that it exposes each athlete's personality so starkly. The tennis player is alone on the court, unprotected by teammates, coaches or helmets, and just a few yards from his opponent. His every move is obvious, his every sound apparent in front of a hushed crowd. His face and body language are open to the camera. Rarely can he blame the officials or the court or the elements. His weaknesses are laid bare, as are how he deals with those weaknesses.
Roddick the tennis player was kind of a normal guy, even a little bit boring. Not a fascinating ice king like Bjorn Borg. Not an irresistible volcanic force like John McEnroe. Not astonishingly cool like Roger Federer. Not as superhumanly vigorous as Rafael Nadal.
It would be frightening to approach Borg in the street—too inaccessible. Or McEnroe—too superior. Or Federer—too perfect. Or Nadal—too agitated.
But Roddick? Sure. An Australian journalist at the press conference offered that Roddick might want to join him and his pals for beers later Thursday. He might think there's half a chance Roddick will.
Of course, Roddick is not so fully known to those of us who've watched him as we'd like to think. Of course, he probably wouldn't really want to talk with us in the street or have a beer with a newspaper writer on the day of his retirement.
But it sure seemed like Roddick the player was the real thing and a real person. Super-talented, yes, but without the robot-like mentality that carries some players to the top the sport. And without the absolutely nutty competitiveness that can also propel a player to make it there. Roddick won one major. The US Open in 2003.
And so for Andy Roddick just to amble into a media room at the US Open on such short notice and let everyone know that he was ready to retire—it just made sense.