By Diane Pucin Los Angeles Times
NEW YORK — In his last professional tennis match, Andy Roddick was perfect Andy Roddick.
He played so hard that sweat dripped off his cap, making a watery river of effort. He was twitchy and always moving, hardly able to sit down even during changeovers. He earned a quick advantage over a higher-seeded opponent but then he started to slow down. Because after the serve, his options slowly went away.
And after Roddick lost his final match, to seventh-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4, Roddick swiped tears from his eyes. Then he made us laugh.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, Roddick answered quickly.
“I want everyone to look back and think that I was awesome,” Roddick said. He was laughing.
On the day he turned 30 last week, Roddick announced his career would be finished when he lost here, at the place he won his only major title, in 2003.
The high point of his final match might have been a skipping forehand winner that gave him the first set and prompted Roddick to pump his fists and yell, “Come on.”
But after that Roddick began rubbing his right shoulder, the one he suggests will sooner rather than later need surgery. And he also began having trouble withstanding the easy power that comes from the 23-year-old del Potro, who, like Roddick, won his only major title here (in 2009).
Cheered on by his parents, Blanche and Jerry; his wife, model and actress Brooklyn Decker; his coach, Larry Stefanki, and nearly every person in the crowd that grew louder as the day became sunnier, Roddick finished out a 12-year career in which he had ranked somewhere in the top 20 since 2001, a consistency that he said made him proud.
He also finished his tennis career with 32 titles, including the U.S. Open. He was runner-up in four other major tournaments, including three times at Wimbledon.
“Playing the last five games was pretty hard,” Roddick said. “Once I got down a break I could barely look at my box. I don’t know what the emotions are. I’m a little overwhelmed. Normally I feel like I can grasp things pretty quickly and clearly. I don’t feel that way right now.”
Del Potro was gracious, quickly making way for Roddick to speak to the crowd.
“Last point of his life,” del Potro said. “It was a tough moment for me and for him. The crowd was amazing for both players but it wasn’t easy for me to play. I was nervous.”
Roddick has finished a career that will likely put him in the Hall of Fame. He was once ranked No. 1 and besides winning the U.S. Open, Roddick lost in four other major finals, each time to all-time Grand Slam tournament winner Roger Federer.
It was when he was 9 that Roddick first remembers coming to the U.S. Open.
“I snuck into the players’ lounge without a credential,” he said. “I saw Pete (Sampras). He was playing video games. I’m pretty sure I beat him at, like, ‘Mortal Kombat’ or something. That was fun.”
More fun than retiring, at least on this teary day.