Rising American Stars Don’t Necessarily Mean the End for Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick was America’s and tennis’ golden boy back in 2003 when fresh off junior circuit titles he entered the main draw at the U.S. Open. Not only did Roddick enter but he shocked the tennis world by winning it all. At the young age of 21, Roddick, the boy who once considered quitting tennis when he was 17, ascended to the world number one ranking. He is the youngest American to ever hold the world number one.

After the 2003 U.S. Open much was expected of Roddick as the USTA put all of their efforts into making Roddick the next American star. With American legends, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi heading into the twilight of their careers, Roddick was considered the future of American tennis. The USTA hoped for him to have the success of Sampras and Agassi but for whatever reason that turned out not to be the case. It is unclear if Roddick felt too much pressure at such a young age being anointed the future of American tennis or if his lack of success was just a result of better players entering the game and a series of injuries that began to plague Roddick in 2007. Whatever reason Roddick has not tasted the success that the USTA envisioned for him.

Shoulder, knee and hamstring injuries all hurt Roddick as he struggled to put together a totally healthy season after his win in 2003. He had stretches where he seemed like the Roddick of the 2003 U.S. Open but could not translate them into another major win.

In 2009, Roddick was finally healthy again and back in championship form. He had a miraculous run at Wimbledon and came within inches of winning the Championship. He faced off against Federer, who has proven to be Roddick’s kryptonite beating him in all four finals Roddick reached since winning his major, and lost a thriller. The match went five sets with Roddick barely losing the 5th by a final score of 16-14. In an almost unbelievable loss, Roddick’s serve was broken only once.

Many cite the 2009 Wimbledon loss as the end of Andy Roddick’s career as far as being a contender in major tournaments. He lost a great deal of confidence after losing that match and consequently that led to his worst finish in the U.S. Open when he lost in 2010 in only the second round. Roddick did have some good moments including beating Nadal in a non major tournament semifinal. He then went on to beat Berdych in the final marking his 29th title in 49 finals. Although flashes of success followed Roddick it was the overall disappointing finishes in subsequent majors that dropped his rank from 7th, to 5th and finally in 2010 to being out of the top ten. This was meaningful for both Roddick and U.S. tennis as it marked the first time since the inception of rankings that an American male was out of the top ten. The Americans before Roddick had had so much success and when Roddick fell, U.S. tennis fell with him.

In an effort to save the sport for the Americans the USTA development program started in 2008 began to invest more time and money into training future American stars. They could not afford to rely on Roddick as the future anymore and they focused on a new crop of youngsters. Jack Sock 18, Donald Young 22, John Isner 26, and Sam Querrey 24, are just some of the names associated with the future of American tennis. They are who Roddick and Fish were when Agassi and Sampras were where Roddick is now; towards the end of their careers.

Although young talent is rising and the development program of the USTA is finally seeing results, that does not mean the end of Andy Roddick, who because of injury and missed time entered the U.S. Open ranked 21st, his worst ranking since 2003. Although his forehand is not as powerful anymore, Roddick still has one of the fastest serves in the men’s game. He has the ability and athleticism to go back to the finals and for the first time in a few years he is healthy again and very fit. This may be Roddick’s best chance to win a major again with Federer and Nadal not looking unbeatable and the almost god-like Djokovic being one player that Roddick has consistently beaten. Although the Djokovic Roddick beat is not the one who is 50-2 this year, I still believe Roddick has a shot to win and to return to the pinnacle of tennis greatness. I think his confidence is back and his motivation is there. Roddick has nothing to lose and with another finals appearance or even better a win, he can prove to the U.S. and to the world that he is not finished yet.

Jack Sock, the teenager from Andy’s home state of Nebraska with a vintage Roddick type of serve and forehand, may be the future Andy Roddick but fortunately for Roddick it is not time for the future just yet. This one time American tennis star is showing so far in the 2011 U.S. Open that he is not ready to step aside.

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