Andy Roddick’s career was brought to a close overnight with defeat by Juan Martin Del Potro in the fourth round of the US Open.
It was fitting that the American’s final moments in tennis should be played out on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the court where he enjoyed his biggest success when he won the title in 2003.
The match had begun yesterday before rain interrupted and for a while he looked like he might extend his career in glorious fashion with victory over the seventh seed.
They resumed in a first-set tie-break and Roddick dropped only one of the first seven points, but Del Potro levelled and from there the Argentinian was in control.
Roddick saved a match point to huge cheers from the patriotic crowd but it was not to be as Del Potro won 6-7 (1/7) 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 6-4 to set up a last-eight meeting with second seed Novak Djokovic.
Roddick struggled to control his emotions towards the end of the match and was in floods of tears at the end as he addressed the crowd.
He said: “For the first time in my career I’m not sure what to say. I’ve loved every minute of it. I love you guys with all my heart. Hopefully I’ll come back to this place someday and see you all again.”
Roddick announced last week this would be his last tournament, giving him a few days to build up to the end, but when it came it was still tough for the 30-year-old to deal with.
Speaking to the press a bit later, he said: “It was tough. Once he got up in that match it was a different set of circumstances than my previous matches.
“Then you start thinking about how real it is and a lot of thoughts go through your head. You’re thinking about matches you’re playing when you’re 12 or I was thinking about my mom driving me to practices all over the place.
“You just think about a million things. Then all of a sudden you have to play a point against one of the best players in the world. It certainly was a mixed bag there at the end.
“Playing the last five games was pretty hard. Once I got down a break I could barely look at my box. I don’t know what the emotions are. I’m a little overwhelmed right now.
“I normally feel like I can grasp things pretty quickly and clearly. I certainly don’t feel that way right now.”
In explaining his decision last week, Roddick had cited the physical wear and tear that had left him unable to play at the level that took him to five grand slam finals, including three losses to Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
He added: “I’m not ignorant to the fact that it’s a huge part of me and that I won’t miss it, of course I will. I’m not pretending like there aren’t going to be hard days. But I feel pretty settled in the decision and I feel content and happy with it.”
Del Potro is now three wins away from repeating his US Open success of 2009 but he knew the moment was certainly not about him.
The Argentinian said: “It was a really tough moment for me and for him also. The last point of his life. The crowd was amazing for both players. I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t easy for me to play.
“Of course it was an amazing moment for me also winning the match. But I think the words are enough for this moment. He has to enjoy his life and I would like to congratulate him because he made an unbelievable career.”