Last week, on his 30th birthday, Andy Roddick announced he was to retire from competitive tennis whenever his U.S. Open run ended.
And yesterday, the American tennis legend and his wife, model and actress Brooklyn Decker, were both overcome by emotion as he lost in four sets to Juan Martin del Potro in the tournament’s fourth round.
Wearing a grey Andy Roddick Foundation T-shirt and a black leather skirt, the Battleship actress kept her eyes hidden behind a pair of black sunglasses.
But she could not disguise her sadness as the 2003 tournament champion and former world No. 1-ranked player’s stellar career came to an end in New York City.
Roddick was also visibly emotional in the final game on the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court and received a huge ovation from the crowd as he bowed out.
‘For the first time in my career, I’m not sure what to say,’ Roddick told the crowd after the match.
‘I appreciate your support along the way. I know I haven’t made it easy for you at times,’ referring to short temper on the court.
Argentinian Del Potro, when he was asked for the on-court interview, stepped away quickly to give Nebraska born Roddick the stage.
‘The last five games was hard,’ Roddick said after the match. ‘Once I got down that break I could barely look at my box. I’m a little overwhelmed right now.’
The seventh-seeded del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, won 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4 in a match spread over two days. The pair’s contest began on Tuesday night but rain suspended play one point into a first-set tiebreaker forcing Roddick and del Potro to reconvene on court yesterday.
The Argentinian, who also got off to a slow start a day on Tuesday, looked sluggish in losing the tiebreaker yesterday but once he won the second set, the 23-year-old started to dictate Roddick’s career-ending game.
Yesterday’s play ended with a forehand error and all the American player could do was bury his face in a towel, tears welling in his eyes. In a heartfelt speech to the crowd, he described how he had been coming to the U.S. Open since he was a child and that he’s ‘loved every minute’ of his impressive career.
‘It was really tough moment for me and for him, also,’ he said later. ‘Last point of his life. The crowd was amazing for both players. I really enjoyed in that way, but it wasn’t easy for me to play.’
USTA Chairman Jon Vegosen said yesterday: ‘Andy has been an outstanding ambassador for our sport and our country, always carrying himself with the character and class that define a champion.
While he finished out his career with a loss, Roddick said his performance over the years – he has ranked somewhere in the top 20 since 2001 – has made him proud. He also finished his tennis career with 32 career titles including the U.S. Open. He was runner-up in four other major tournaments, including three times at Wimbledon.
Roddick and Decker started dating in 2007 after the tennis player asked his agent to track down a number for the leggy blonde, after spotting her in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit spread. They married in 2009.
Roddick has battled injuries throughout the last few years, saying in his retirement announcement he didn’t believe he could put in the work required to stay at the top of the game anymore.
He will now devote more time to The Andy Roddick Foundation, a charity dedicated to improving the quality of life and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all children based on the principles of respect for family, education and morality.
The American player struggled to compose himself before the home crowd but managed to deliver a poignant speech about his love for the game and the U.S. Open in particular.
‘Since I was a kid I’ve been coming to this tournament,’ he told fans. ‘I’ve felt lucky to sit where all of you sit … to see the champions who have come and gone, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
‘It’s been a road, lot of ups, lot of downs, lot of great moments, and I’ve appreciated your support along the way. I love you guys with all my heart. Hopefully, I’ll come back to this place some day and see all of you again.
‘Last, I want to say thank you to my family, my mom and dad who gave me every chance, he said. ‘One thing I’m not scared about retirement is the people I go home to.’
Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images