Andy Roddick waves to the crowd after his loss to Juan Martin Del Potro at… (Cameron Spencer / Getty…)
NEW YORK -- Andy Roddick, the 30-year-old American who won his only Grand Slam-level tournament here in 2003, left the sport for good Wednesday, but he went down with a fight and huge support from the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.
In a fourth-round match that began Tuesday night before being stopped by rain, Roddick couldn't keep up his high-energy play long enough and lost to seventh-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4. The match had been stopped Tuesday just after the first-set tiebreak began.
After skipping into a forehand winner that gave him the first set and prompted him to pump his fists and yell, "Come on," Roddick began rubbing his right shoulder, the one he suggests will sooner rather than later need surgery. He also began to have trouble withstanding the easy power that comes off the racket of 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, the 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 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 career titles including the U.S. Open. He was runner-up in four other major tournaments, including three times at Wimbledon.
Even Pippa Middleton -- sister of Kate Middleton, the duchess of Cambridge -- abandoned the quarterfinal between third-seeded Brit Andy Murray and 12th-seeded Croat Marin Cilic that was being played at Louis Armstrong Stadium. Middleton took a seat next to Roddick's mother midmatch and began cheering enthusiastically for the American.
The most critical service break came in the fifth game of the final set when Roddick's signature stiff-armed, two-handed backhand sailed wide to give Del Potro the first service break of the final set and a 3-2 lead. The crowd moaned and Roddick barely sat in his chair 20 seconds. He was in a hurry, maybe to get the break back or maybe to head into the rest of his life.
Roddick had said he plans to work hard on a tennis-education foundation in Austin, Texas, and also to tinker with his golf game.
After getting that third-set break, the 6-foot-6 Del Potro easily held serve for a 4-2 lead, and again for a 5-3 advantage. What turned out to be Roddick's final service game started out with two service winners, but then Del Potro twice left Roddick flat-footed with great returns, scrambling and drop shots. Roddick saved a break point while the crowd stood and managed to hold his serve with a volley that made the crowd not only stand but dance.
It seemed as if Roddick was starting to tear up during the final change-over and blew air from his mouth in big gulps as he walked to receive serve, to chants of "Let's go, Andy." But Del Potro quickly won the first two points on his serve. He won the third with a confident forehand passing shot to reach match point. As Roddick swiped at his eyes, Del Potro put in a huge serve and blasted a huge forehand and Roddick finally could only push a forehand wide. Decker was crying in the stands and Roddick put his head under a towel and then walked out to receive a standing ovation.
Roddick had trouble composing himself before he spoke to the crowd.
"For the first time in my career I'm not sure what to say," Roddick said. "Since I was a kid I've been coming to this tournament. I've felt lucky to sit where all of you sit ... to see the champions who have come and gone, and I've loved every minute of it," he said.
"It's been a road, lot of ups, lot of downs, lot of great moments, and I've appreciated your support along the way. I love you guys with all my heart. Hopefully I'll come back to this place some day and see all of you again. Last, I want to say thank you to my family, my mom and dad who gave me every chance," he said. "One thing I'm not scared about retirement is the people I go home to."
In the quarterfinals, Del Potro will now play second-seeded Novak Djokovic, the defending champion who beat 18th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-4, 6-1, 3-1 (ret). Also moving into the men's quarterfinals Wednesday was eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic, who beat 19th-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-2.
NCAA shouldn't pile on USC
Cowboys are the most valuable NFL team, according to Forbes
Rain her friend again, Maria Sharapova rolls into U.S. Open semis