When an athlete retires, the most burning question is whether or not the decision came too soon or too late. There are those that simply do not know how to say goodbye and stay too long, and those that cannot fathom the thought of dropping from their perch and leaving even if they may have more to give.
In the case of Andy Roddick, there seemed to be a general sense of acceptance. A steadily declining ranking, a serve that failed to impose upon the world's best, but perhaps most significantly, a body clearly feeling the effects of a 13-year career that was built upon a foundation of hard work.
Andy Roddick burst onto the world tennis scene at the tender age of 19, when he defeated his idol Pete Sampras at the Miami Masters. With the United States' rich tennis history and Sampras and Agassi winding down their careers, someone needed to carry the torch that was ready to be handed over.
Roddick readily accepted the challenge and went on to capture what now stands as his lone grand slam title, the 2003 U.S. Open. The major win also lead to him becoming the youngest American and second-youngest overall to secure the No.1 ranking since the introduction of computer rankings in 1973.
It seemed to be the beginning of a glorious career, but as we look back now, it was clearly his highest peak. Where did it all go wrong?
He lost all four of his semifinal appearances at the Australian Open, all three of his final appearances at Wimbledon, and one of his two appearances in the U.S. Open final as well. Six of those eight defeats were at the hands of Federer, clearly his biggest stumbling block.
It would be easy to say that Federer was simply too good and Roddick was unlucky to have his best days coincide with those of arguably the greatest player this sport has produced. But why did Andy struggle to the tune of a 3-21 record against Federer? What made such a dominant serve and forehand game look so indefensible?
The answer was quite glaring and evident whenever the two played each other. Roddick would huff and puff hoping he could blow the Federer house down, while the great Swiss would simply glide across the court dispatching Roddick with what often appeared to be a magic wand. The ease with which Federer did this was a testament to how much of a natural he was at the sport: he was simply born to play tennis.
Roddick, for all his hard work, was just the opposite, someone who worked hard at his craft and made the most of what he had. One never got the impression that he had a feel for the game the way the naturals do. He always came into matches with his hard hat and a never-say-die attitude.
He was usually well prepared. But unfortunately, when his game plan failed, he failed. When faced with the most critical points, all he could do was stick to his plan and hope it came off. As opponents put him on the back foot, he rarely found a wonder shot not named his serve to bail him out.
In a tennis world where increasingly impossible angles were being found and defense-to-offense shots became the norm, Roddick struggled to keep up. The likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic took the game beyond his capabilities with their extravagant skills a while ago.
Despite all this, Roddick still managed a career record of 612-213 and 32 ATP titles. That's a record many players would love to call their own.
He may have fallen short more often than he would have liked in his career's biggest moments, but it was never due to a lack of effort. It's rare that a player with as many holes in his game can come away with a grand slam title, but he did. That's the power of hard work and dedication.
As Roddick mentioned a few times throughout the course of his career, he is one of the lucky few.
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