Andy Roddick, after winning his first round match at the U.S. Open, was asked in an on-court interview what he wanted for his 30th birthday. Roddick made it quite clear when he said, “Let’s try and make it to the second week. Then we can renegotiate.”
The art of renegotiating remains just as important to Roddick’s tennis career as his ability to bomb 140MPH serves. Roddick, who is making his 13th straight appearance at Flushing Meadows, still continues to deal with a variety of off and on injuries that sometimes hinders him while at other times don’t appear to be a factor at all during a match. When asked about his body at the recent Winston-Salem Open, Roddick bristled at the comment and then said, “Sometimes they grade on a curve and you get credit for attendance at school. It’s been a tough year physically. It’s been various things. I start playing well and then something else comes up so it’s been frustrating.”
While Roddick’s comment acknowledges his recent woes, it’s almost as if Roddick would like some more recognition for sticking around this year even when many thought, especially after his losing streak in the spring, that he might hang up the racquets for good at the end of the season. Roddick surprised many, and maybe even himself, by winning two events before the Olympics, along with recently returning to the top 20. These results have at least made the talk about Roddick’s possible exit from the game into that for the moment – just talk.
Renegotiating the expectations placed on Roddick along with the results during his career is something he and American tennis fans have been doing ever since he won the U.S. Open in 2003 and reached No. 1 in the world. It was expected he would continue the long domination of American men in the tradition of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Instead, Roddick ended up in the same era along side Roger Federer, and the rest they say is history, in this case for the other guy. Roddick was expected to be a part of the top five for many years. Instead, he remained a mainstay in the top ten until of late but could never quite stay close with the current “big three”. Roddick has had a great career, one that most players would love to have, but there’s always a feeling with Roddick of “what might have been” or “what should have been” especially if he had pulled off that Wimbledon final against Federer in 2009.
“It’s funny, because the things I feel like I get criticized for have kept me around a lot more than my contemporaries,” said Roddick when asked in New York if he changed his game during his career to keep up with the changing pace of it. “Let’s say I came up with Marat (Safin) and (Juan Carlos) Ferrero and a couple other guys. Obviously everyone points to Roger, but we can all point to Roger all day. If that’s the comparison we’re drawing, then we’re going to end up with the stories we have had. I saw the way the game was going. You have to get stronger and quicker. It was a conscious effort at times, and I feel like that’s added to longevity a little bit.”
By mentioning Safin, who is now retired and Ferrero, the man he beat in the 2003 final, Roddick reminded us all that he is still a part of the game and that rather than dwell on his past glories and disappointments, that instead we adopt his current view of his career, that at the moment goes week by week but is one still very much in motion. Just when you think the Andy Roddick story is complete, he keeps adding another chapter to it, even if some have already turned the page and that’s why everyone should keep paying attention to him. Only when Roddick has finally left the sport for good can we then fairly assess his career in totality.
Despite his recent ups and downs, Roddick, no matter his ranking, remains the face of U.S. men’s tennis even with John Isner’s recent rise to the top ten and that will continue until another American manages a deep run at a Major or a climb into the elite tier of the rankings. If Roddick can stay healthy, then he might just have a chance at returning to the top ten. But if 2013 turns into another year of him feeling good one week and not so great the next, then Roddick and his many fans will likely resume the ongoing renegotiations of Roddick’s legacy that have been going on ever since his shining moment on the biggest stage in all of tennis.