Andy Roddick should bow out with no regrets
Until my dying day I will remember that game. One game, five shots, 46 seconds. That 46 second game which saw Andy Roddick serve out the US Open of 2003.
There are so many Roddick moments to recall from a distinguished career - I loved the quality and sportsmanship of his epic quarter-final with Younes El Aynouai in Australia earlier that year - but nothing tops that sprint finish to the line at Flushing Meadows.
On a totally green hard court in 2003, before the blue was introduced, Juan Carlos Ferrero managed to get his racket on just one of Roddick's four serves. It was the freedom of an all-American sport-mad kid, just doing his thing.
Roddick, 21, had become a Grand Slam champion and a new American idol, who would end that year as the world number one, had arrived on the international scene.
Fast forward almost nine years and Roddick, on his 30th birthday, found himself announcing his retirement, very calmly and very definitely, to a packed Flushing Meadows press conference.
Friends and family were seated alongside the journalists: Brooklyn Decker, his wife, Larry Stefanki, his coach, Stephen Little, the London taxi driver who drove him randomly one night and became a close friend.
They knew what was coming, the reporters weren't so sure.
Was he pulling out of the tournament? Was it a birthday celebration? Roddick did well to keep the news under wraps and, through the microphones of the media, announced it to the world on his own terms. He deserved that.
Andy Roddick has won 32 career titles in a 12 year professional tennis career. Photo: Getty
It was a sudden development, and the twittersphere reacted with shock, but, if we're honest, it had been coming. For a while, Roddick has struggled to live with the intense pace and quality at the top of the men's game. He's not interested in simply "existing", to use his phrase.
Feeling uncompetitive against the best, Roddick put it simply: "It is time," he said.
And, on Thursday, it was impossible to argue with that.
Then we had Friday night.
Roddick thrashed one of the better prospects in the game (supposedly) Bernard Tomic and there were plenty of fans wondering if he'd made a premature call.
The Arthur Ashe night session is Roddick's stage in America. Nobody has played more times under the New York lights. As he whacked, wheeled, bounced and smiled his way to victory, he put the feeble Tomic firmly in his place. (The Aussie was "pathetic" according to US commentator Patrick McEnroe). Does Roddick have one more glorious run left in him?
Whatever happens here, Andy Roddick has been great for tennis. Like Kim Clijsters, also retiring after this year's tournament (she won in mixed doubles last night to prolong her career another day), he will be missed by colleagues, fans and media alike.
We will miss his huge serve, sharp wit, perennial perseverance, even the funny fidgets.
Not a point went by without the right shoulder of his shirt being adjusted. I hope in his next life - in TV studio, office, garden, wherever - he keeps adjusting that shoulder of the shirt and requests a nearby towel.
His press conferences were often legendary. Silly questions would be dispatched to the boundary with tongue-in-cheek disdain. Half-volleys would be snaffled with quick-witted enthusiasm. And he always gave an honest answer.
"How do you rate Gonzalez's chances?" [in the 07 Australian Open Final v Federer].
"What was your favourite press conference?" he was asked last night.
"I don't really rate press conferences. It's not as though I leave the room fist-pumping my way down the corridor after a good one."
Classic, straight-faced, A-Rod.
Earlier, he was on good form on the court. He revealed he got a bit emotional as he walked past a TV studio and a saw a montage of his career. "The sound was down but I'm guessing it was set to an 80s ballad" he quipped.
He loved a bit of chat with an under performing umpire and would try to outwit them at change of ends. Once in Australia, he left the chair advising the crowd: "Stay in college, kids. Otherwise you may become an umpire."
When he needed to be serious, he had no trouble switching gears.
In the past 12 months he has been the most articulate voice of the locker room in the ongoing campaign for a better share of Grand Slam tournament revenues. The players should persuade him to stay as their spokesman and lead negotiations from the sidelines. He has also raised a huge amount of money for charity through his foundation.
Being such a popular player in the UK, it was a disappointment to many that he never won Wimbledon. How he tried.
He came close, especially in 2009, but never managed to avoid Roger Federer, who beat him in three finals. His effort in that marathon All England Club final three years ago was immense and one couldn't help but feel for him as he sat in the runners up chair as Federer paraded yet another trophy. Roddick just wanted to hold it the once.
No regrets though. It was a mighty fine career. Now a new life beckons and he's bound to be a success in whatever field he turns to, which will surely involve talking, a lot of jesting and quite a bit of fidgeting. Good luck Andy.