Roddick’s retirement leaves void in American tennis

Courtesy of Keith Allison

Few tennis players get the chance to end their careers in front of their fellow countrymen. One of those fortunate few, Andy Roddick said farewell to professional tennis at the 2012 U.S. Open after an emotional four-set loss to Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round.

In his post-match interview, the Texas native looked up to the 23,000 fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium with teary eyes and said, “It’s been a road of a lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of great moments.”

“I’ve appreciated your support along the way,” Roddick said. “I know I certainly haven’t made it easy for you at times, but I really do appreciate it and love you guys with all my heart.”

Roddick is unquestionably the most successful American men’s tennis player since the legendary Pete Sampras retired. His serve was one of the fastest ever in the sport, and his sole Grand Slam victory at the 2003 U.S. Open final propelled him to the world’s number one ranking. He was a finalist in three Wimbledon Championships and in the 2006 U.S. Open, losing to Roger Federer each time. Retiring at the age of 30, he amassed 32 career singles titles along with over $20 million in prize money.

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Now that Roddick has hung up his racquets, there is a void in American tennis.

John Isner, ranked number 10 in the world, is currently the best American male player. Though Isner has a monster serve and powerful forehand, he is not Grand Slam champion material. At 6’9” Isner moves slowly across the court, so when opponents get him on the run, the quality of his groundstrokes rapidly deteriorate because he is unable to reach the ball in time. Though he is graceful at the net, his volleying ability is not skillful enough to be considered an overpowering strength. Isner certainly possesses the talent to win the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 series titles and he can go deep into every Grand Slam, but he lacks the diverse arsenal he needs to consistently defeat superstars such as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Sam Querrey, another heavy hitter and server, currently holds the 26th rank in the ATP Tour. Querry usually flies under the radar even though he has seven career titles under his belt. He has the potential to win multiple Masters 1000 series titles, but it an unlikely prospect that he will make a big run in a Grand Slam. Like Isner, he is limited by his movement and lack of options.

Mardy Fish has made a late-career push, recently undergoing formidable physical training that has transformed him into one of the fittest men on tour. However, Fish was forced to pull out of this year’s U.S. Open because of heart conditions, and questions abounded about whether he will ever be able to play in full health again.

The United States’ best long-term hopes for men’s tennis could be Jack Sock. The 19-year-old Nebraskan, currently 208th in the world, won the 2010 Juniors U.S. Open and has great potential with his aggressive base lining and serve-and-volley skills.

American men will enjoy success in lower-level tournaments and will make occasional deep runs in Grand Slam tournaments, but we will have to wait years until a player is developed enough to leave behind a legacy as impressive as the one Andy Roddick has left for this country.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 18 print edition. Karthik Ramakrishnan is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected] 

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