Class of 2017
Top Ranking Singles
World No. 1 (2003)
Played for the United States at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games
Member of the American Davis Cup Team 2001-2009, 2011
Member of the winning team 2007
Overall Record: 33-12
Singles Record: 33-12
ITF World Champion
Personal Best Serve
ANDY RODDICK'S COMPLICATED AMERICAN JOURNEY
It was an education he would never forget. Andy Roddick that weekend in the spring of 2000 was 17 years old, the hitting partner for a Davis Cup team that featured a remarkable array of personalities. Front and center were the stars, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. The captain was John McEnroe. Up in the broadcast booth, calling the action, was Patrick McEnroe.
On the Thursday before the matches started, Roddick stood at the net, withstanding repeated salvos from Agassi. Roddick volleyed, Agassi struck the ball harder and harder. As his torso occasionally buckled, Roddick held his ground. Agassi smiled. Captain McEnroe looked on.
The author Henry James once noted that to be an American is a complicated fate. Certainly this held true for Roddick. He had emerged near the midnight stages of Agassi and Sampras, two titans who collectively would win 22 Grand Slam titles. What did the fates hold for Roddick?
RAPID ASCENT TO THE TOP
He had grown up the youngest son in a sports-loving family. One of Roddick’s two older brothers, John, had set the pace, as high as #6 in the world in the juniors. Young Andy was eager to get in on the action. Spunky and tenacious, he soon became one of America’s best juniors. By 2000, months after his Davis Cup tutorial, Roddick was the number one junior in the world.
The next year, he burst on the tennis scene in a major way. There were three singles titles, wins over fellow Americans Sampras and Michael Chang, a quarterfinal effort at the US Open. Said Sampras that year, “The way he competes, and the way he plays, he really is the future.” Ranked 158 at the start of 2001, by year’s end, Roddick was #14 in the world. In 2002, Roddick commenced a sturdy run of nine straight year-end finishes in the top ten.
But nothing would surpass what Roddick accomplished in 2003. In June, following a first round exit at Roland Garros, he commenced three months of off-the-charts tennis. It began with a victory at Queens Club, highlighted by Roddick’s first win over Agassi. It continued with a run to the semis at Wimbledon. And then came a North American summer tennis players dream about – three titles in US Open warm-up tournaments, culminating with Roddick winning the US Open.
The standout moment of the New York campaign had come in the semis. Against David Nalbandian, Roddick went down two sets to love, faced a match point in the tiebreaker – and then extricated himself from the precipice with a big serve. He took the next two sets handily and went on to defeat reigning French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the finals, closing it out in signature style: three straight aces.
Finishing 2003 ranked number one in the world, Roddick had rapidly fulfilled the enormous expectations of an American following Sampras and Agassi. Roddick’s great success made him a cross-cultural icon. He was interviewed by Elton John, named by People Magazine as the sexiest athlete on the planet and became only the second tennis player to host NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
AN APPETITE FOR THE ARENA
Roddick’s biggest asset was his sheer love of competition, propelled by the urgency he brought to match play. Snap. Crackle. Pop. Even the technique of Roddick’s biggest shot – his serve – had a truncated, staccato-like quality. But the delivery also revealed all the hard work Roddick had put in to make his legs strong and body supple. The serve was frequently terminal. In his impressive career, Roddick struck over 9,000 aces. But even more, the serve often put Roddick in position to dictate play with a massive forehand he could direct powerfully to any part of the court.
Never was Roddick’s competitive appetite demonstrated more vividly than when he played for his country. Long before that trip to Los Angeles, he’d attended the 1992 Davis Cup finals in Austin – a ten-year-old boy, thrilled by watching the stars and stripes capture the prestigious trophy. As Roddick’s career got underway, the United States had not won the Cup since 1995. “He loves the pressure that’s being put upon him as being a great American hope,” U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said in 2001. “I think he really revels in it.” Over the next decade, Roddick would play 25 Davis Cup ties, winning 33 singles match (2nd all-time among U.S. players) and going 12-0 when he had the chance to clinch a victory. The pinnacle came in Portland in 2007, when Roddick joined forces with James Blake and the Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob, to end a 12-year U.S. drought. Said Roddick, “To be here and bring the Cup back to the States is an amazing feeling.”
ALWAYS SEEKING TO GET BETTER
Roddick would win 32 ATP World Tour singles titles. But in the wake of his 2003 US Open run, he’d spend the rest of his career stymied in the pursuit of another victory at the four majors. The persistent obstacle: Roger Federer, who would beat Roddick in three Wimbledon finals (2004, 2005, 2009) and once in the finals of the US Open (2006).
Asked once to name his favorite movie, Roddick had cited The Shawshank Redemption, a film with the signature phrase, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” At every stage of his career, Roddick was busy living, from a rigorous off-court training regimen to the search for the best possible coach. Those coaches included a wide range of minds – Tarik Benhabiles, Brad Gilbert, John Roddick, Dean Goldfine, Jimmy Connors, and Larry Stefanki. With each coach, Roddick studied diligently, eager to maximize his serve and forehand, enhance his backhand, improve his court positioning, sharpen his volleys.
IF YOU CAN MEET WITH TRIUMPH & DISASTER
While Davis Cup was where many Roddick’s greatest victories took place, then Wimbledon 2009 was the site of something he’d likely never imagined: a triumphant defeat. He’d reached the final that year with wins over past Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt and Great Britain’s Andy Murray. Taking on Federer once again, Roddick won the first set 7-5 and went up 6-2 in the second set tiebreaker – four straight points for a two sets to love lead. But alas, Federer would win six straight points to level the match. Both players fought on magnificently, into a fifth. Roddick served from behind, ten times holding when a game from losing. But on the eleventh, at 14-15, after more than four hours, Federer at last broke Roddick.
Though naturally despondent, Roddick would rapidly grasp the magnitude of his magnificent effort. “You might expect me to hate that match but I don’t,” he said in 2014. “It’s the one where I felt people might have gotten me for the first time. Early in my career, some liked me and some didn’t. After that, though, I felt that at least there was a bit of general respect. You would never have thought that an obnoxious, opinionated American and Wimbledon would get along so well.”
Yet if even in defeat, Roddick had left his mark on Wimbledon, it only made sense that he would conclude his career on native grounds. On August 30, 2012, the day he turned 30, Roddick announced that he would retire at the conclusion of his homeland Slam. There would be three victories at the US Open that year, and Roddick was beaten in the round of 16 by 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. “I’ve loved every minute of it,” Roddick said to the crowd that day. “It’s been a road, a lot of ups, a lot of down, a lot of great moments.”
And it had been a long road, longer than most even knew. The world knew that Roddick had won the US Open in 2003. A select group of tennis zealots knew that he’d won the US Open junior title in 2000. But go even further back. In 1991, the year he’d turned nine, Roddick had come to the US Open. On more than one occasion, he’d snuck into the player’s lounge. With a hint of gutsiness and mischief, that little boy had stepped into forbidden territory, pondered his future – and eventually turned his dream into a reality. There was nothing complicated about that, was there?
--Joel Drucker, International Tennis Hall of Fame Historian-at-Large
Australian Open: SF 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009
Wimbledon: F 2004, 2005, 2009
US Open: W 2003