More people want to ask Andy Roddick about a Grand Slam final he lost than the one he won.
Yes, that 16-14 defeat in the fifth set against Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009 seems to spark more conversations than Roddick’s straight-set victory at the 2003 U.S. Open, the last time any American man won a major championship.
”For better or worse, it’s going to be the `09 Wimbledon final. It’s the match people want to talk about. I’ll be in a coffee shop and people want to talk about it. People will tell me where they were and where they were watching it,” Roddick said in a telephone interview Friday, the day before he is inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.
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”It’s a proud moment for me. To go on the biggest stage and – I know I didn’t come up on the right end of it, but I don’t know that I could have played or executed a game plan better than I did for 4+ hours,” he said. ”It’s definitely the one I hear about the most and talk about the most and kind of think about the most.”
On Saturday, Roddick and another former No. 1 player, four-time major champion Kim Clijsters, will headline the Hall’s Class of 2017. Also being enshrined this year: Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch, a four-time Paralympic medalist in wheelchair tennis; journalist and historian Steve Flink; and tennis instructor Vic Braden.
Roddick and Clijsters were moved by the opportunity to tour the hall with family and friends on Friday.
”When I walk through there and I see the history of our sport from when I was a little girl – Steffi Graf and Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez – and just a few meters over, there’s my picture or my trophy, it feels very special,” Clijsters said. ”But it’s also very hard to understand and have it sink in.”
Both played their last singles matches in 2012 at the U.S. Open, an important site for their careers.
Clijsters won titles in New York in 2005, 2009 – with her daughter, Jada, prancing around the trophy in Arthur Ashe Stadium – and 2010, along with the Australian Open in 2011.
In addition to winning his Grand Slam trophy at Flushing Meadows, Roddick was the runner-up there in 2006 to – yes, that’s right – Federer. Roddick’s trio of runner-up finishes at Wimbledon in 2004, 2005 and 2009 all came against Federer.
”I gave myself a lot peace of mind when I decided I wasn’t going to compare myself to Roger,” Roddick said with a chuckle.
The key to Roddick’s success was his big serve – he once held the record for fastest at 155 mph (250 kph) – and big forehand. But he worked to improve other aspects of his game, including his fitness, backhand and volleys.
”A great competitor. Always getting the most out of himself,” said Lleyton Hewitt, a two-time major champion whose career overlapped Roddick’s. ”Left it all out on the court every time he stepped out there. Looked like he did all the hard work, as well, to try and prepare himself as well as possible.”
Roddick spent much of his career dealing with questions why his generation wasn’t as successful as previous groups of American men, such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in the 1990s, or John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors before that. Now it’s Roddick whose name comes up in that sort of context: When Sam Querrey reached the Wimbledon semifinals this month, it was noted he was the first man from the U.S. to get that far at a major since Roddick’s tight-as-can-be loss to Federer in 2009 at the All England Club.
After that match, fans at Centre Court chanted Roddick’s name, an unusual homage to someone who didn’t win.
”That’s obviously the one that haunts him,” said Patrick McEnroe, Roddick’s former U.S. Davis Cup captain. ”He was so close. It was arguably the best match he ever played.”
Roddick helped the United States end a 12-year David Cup drought by winning the 2007 title.
”He was one of those guys that got the most out of his ability,” McEnroe said. ”I would say he overachieved. He was a great server, one of the greatest servers ever. But he wasn’t a great tennis player. And I think he would tell you that. He wasn’t a natural player, where he could just hit shots. He had to work extremely hard. So because of that, to me, he overachieved (by) getting to No. 1 in the world and winning a major.”
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