At the beginning of this summer’s U.S. Open, 30-year-old Andy Roddick announced he was retiring. Admittedly, I had mixed feelings. It took me years to grow to appreciate Roddick and his style of play because I had been an avid fan of Pete Sampras. Roddick had burst onto the professional scene with an explosive serve that was second to none. His controversial on-court presence did not sit well with me because I interpreted it as arrogance. I recognized it, I guess, because it takes one to know one. Whenever Roddick argued with an umpire or a line judge I saw myself. Instead of pointing out my own flaws I spent years talking about his on social media. I was happy to see him lose matches, especially to Roger Federer. My poor attitude continued for years, but then something happened.
A few years ago I began to notice how reporters showed no mercy toward Roddick, constantly pressuring him to talk about not winning more majors, his rankings, and retiring. The post-match press conferences were painful to watch. I began to wonder if these reporters had souls. So when Roddick played his final match, losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round of the U.S. Open, I was torn. Why? Because looking back at his career I finally started to appreciate just how much he did for American tennis. I began to care less about his outbursts and more about the fact that Roddick had been the last American standing in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) top 10 for a number of years. In fact, as of Oct. 1, there were no Americans in the ATP men’s top 10. America is desperate for a new generation of players with Roddick’s skill.
In light of this, I was happy to hear that the Andy Roddick Foundation raised about $1 million to help fund youth programs at a new 10,000-square-foot, eight-court tennis and learning facility in Austin, Texas. With one of its chief goals “to teach character and life skills through sports-based mentoring and education,” the foundation will make a difference in Austin. And teaching virtues through such mentoring will not only serve society but will also introduce a new generation to the game of tennis.
In the end, it turns out that Andy Roddick is a better man than I allowed myself to believe, and if I had an opportunity to meet him in person I would congratulate him on a great career quickly followed by an apology for the slander and mockery I’ve directed at him over the years. It would be a great punctuation to his legacy if the opportunities afforded youth at this new Austin facility would cultivated a new generation of American players with good skills and virtuous character. What a great way to serve the game of tennis in the United States and around the world.