For his 30th birthday, at his beloved US Open, Andy Roddick decided to announce his retirement from professional tennis. For some it came as a shock, but more for the seemingly abrupt nature of the decision rather than the actual fact of it. Serena Williams claimed to have known for a year that he’d been considering it, and Roddick conceded that family and close friends had been aware that it was coming.
Those not in the inner circle had thought Andy might make a go of it at least for another year or two. Always feisty in press conferences, the witty tennis pro consistently shot down questions of retirement, even when he dropped out of the Top 10 just a little bit shy of a decade in that upper echelon. He fought past new injuries and disappointments, claiming two more titles in 2012, to up his record to 12 consecutive years with at least one title per year.
Unfortunately, the guy who always gave 100% on the court came to the somewhat painful decision that he just couldn’t accomplish that same amount of effort anymore, emotionally or physically. “I don’t know that I want to disrespect the game by coasting home,” he declared. That dedication is what people have always admired about Roddick: his hard work, his fight in tough situations, his show-up-and-get-to-it consistency, and his love for tennis.
Heavy, ponderous pronouncements aside, that lifelong love of tennis leads to one of my favorite little joys when it comes to Roddick’s tennis. Sure, there’s tons of technical stuff about forehands and serves and all to illustrate that someone’s been in the game a long time. But then there’s the simpler stuff, like the way they bounce, toss, and catch the tennis balls with such ease…the little tricks they do, the way they spin their racquet or juggle it between points. They’ve been doing it so long it’s no longer a big deal to them, it’s as reflexive as breathing.
Roddick has one of the most-recognized serves in the game, which includes the coolest ball-bouncing ever, a frenetic rat-a-tat-tat with his racquet that’s reminiscent of a highly skilled round of paddle-ball:
(Admit it, you found that video ridiculously entertaining…)
J.D. and I roamed the grounds at the Cincinnati Open this year, and the first dude I took photos of was Andy, over at the Party Deck. Those pictures revealed that he was not only skilled with ball bouncing, but he was a tennis ball magician as well.
Here he waves his magic racquet wand over an ordinary tennis ball…
Then, with some concentration and a little Jedi hand maneuver…
With a little more effort now…
I was amazed. Were you amazed?
As a bonus, here’s a look at Roddick’s cute puffed-out cheeks…and puffed-out shirt…as he exhales on a shot..
In the “It Figures” category: The very next photo I took after Andy? This guy:
No denying it, the two are forever linked in tennis history. Not long into Andy’s retirement announcement press conference at the US Open, a reporter mentioned Federer and his high level of tennis at age 31, a year older than the birthday boy. “I didn’t want to get through a press conference without a direct comparison to Roger,” Andy smirked, “so thanks for that.”
It’s another virtue to admire ARod for, how he battled Federer again and again, always with the supreme effort and high-level tennis, despite their lopsided H2H. He was never bitter or vindictive towards his rival, and the two have always been friendly and respectful of one another. “He got the last laugh in Miami,” Rog joked after his Thursday night match at the USO, referring to their last meeting at the Masters event this year, when Roddick took him out in the third round.
Two titles and a win over Federer? Not many guys on tour can say that, let alone guys in ARod’s generation. And there’s still the USO to be played.
At Cincy, I took several photos of Andy’s practice, and at one point his movement was way too fast for me to track with my camera. This shot seemed kind of fitting.
But we look forward to seeing what you come up with next, and wish you well in Phase 2 of Operation Roddick. And we’re all jealous that you get to retire at 30 on your pile of money, you rich, lucky bastard.
PHOTOS: Cincinnati Open 2012, Andy Roddick practice, c2012 Valerie David at TennisInsideOut.com.