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Andy Roddick says goodbye with a tear and a Bud Collins ovation

6th September 2012

Andy Roddick beaten by Juan Martin del Potro leaves Arthur Ashe Stadium with a rare honour; plus, why the $500 million expansion plans at Flushing Meadows don’t include a roof

What an exit by Andy Roddick. He was not always the most popular player in the world, especially among terrified ball-kids and not a few journalists, but it would be churlish to ignore his contribution to the game or the dignified manner of his leaving.

After fighting as hard as he could against Juan Martin del Potro, he surrendered to tired legs and the consistency of his opponent’s power tennis, and departed with tears in his eyes.

Before he left the tournament and the game for good, the last American male to win a slam title, here in 2003, Roddick was afforded a rare honour: a standing ovation in his final press conference.

The venerable Bud Collins, who has been around the game since Henry VIII played it, called for a suspension of protocol and a round of applause for Mr Grumpy, who looked as if he might start crying all over again.

“Thanks, Bud,” he said, maybe for the first time in his life.

Never visibly haunted by self-doubt, Roddick struggled when asked what he thought his most rewarding moment was. “The thing that is certain is I didn’t take any of it for granted. I think I went about things the right way. The umpires might disagree with me. I was consistent, and I don’t feel like I left a lot on the table on a daily basis. When I look back, that’s probably what I’m proud of.”

He was reminded of the time in Delray Beach when he was 17 and he declined an offer to sign a woman’s breast after winning. ” I had just never seen a boob before, to be honest. It was overwhelming for me. This is the second time I have been overwhelmed.”

He provided rare insight, too, into his hard-faced motivation and his often volatile reactions in a 13-year career in which he probably lost as many verbal battles as he won, on court at least.

“It was emotional tonight, but not emotional like we normally have it. It’s normally a very selfish emotion for us. If we do badly then it costs us something; if we do well we get great things. This was about something bigger. It wasn’t about ranking points or pay checques or anything else. It was fun. This week I felt like I was 12 years old playing in a park. It was extremely innocent.”

With that, he took his leave, but not before admitting, “I’m probably not going to be opposed to a beer or ten. We’ll see how that goes.”

Rain, rain go away

As boring as rain can be, it could determine the winner of this US Open, where the forecast over the next couple of days is fair to ordinary.

The only slam tournament without a roof is as much a television event as a sporting event yet, perversely, year after year, the schedules, which are overwhelmingly determined by the demands of ESPN and CBS, run to the rhythm of the storms that lash this part of the east coast every August and September.

A roof has been talked about for years, yet, despite the considerable revenue, increased prize-money, record crowds and disgruntlement in the locker room, there is a stubborn reluctance to invest in change.

What the tournament ends up with is a mish-mash of compromises, as some players go two, or even three, days without court time and others have to play maybe four days in a row, especially towards the final weekend. This is almost wholly down to the way the draw is organised, with seeded players (usually the only ones left at the end of the second week) not appearing early, creating a log-jam that is exacerbated by weather that, for the past four years, has been dire. In the second week, we have the absurd prospect of the women’s semi-finals finishing before some men’s fourth-round matches.

Happily for Andy Murray, he has largely dodged the weather, although the Scot was on rain-watch on Wednesday, as unfinished matches from the previous evening – Maria Sharapova’s quarter-final against Marion Bartoli and the men’s fourth-round match between Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro – formed a disorderly queue ahead of him on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Then Murray was switched to the smaller, thinly-peopled Louis Armstrong, where the lack of energy might well have contributed to his low-key start to a match he could have easily lost, but for Marin Cilic’s inability to resist his stirring comeback over four sets.

Day nine of the last major of the year began with seven matches waiting to resume. Several others were in the traffic jam building up behind them. At least two of these matches, Sharapova-Bartoli and Roddick-del Potro, could have been wound up on Tuesday had one of the courts had a roof.

As it happened, when the rain arrived late in the afternoon on day eight, organisers decided to suspend Sharapova-Bartoli and, when the weather cleared, put Roddick-del Potro on Arthur Ashe, because that is the match ESPN wanted for its night-time session. So, instead of at least one match being finished, there were two unfinished.

Thus is the integrity of competition undermined.

The weather will always be a factor in sport but, as Wimbledon and Melbourne have already demonstrated, with Paris to follow suit, there are ways to accommodate it. But roof is a four-letter word at the US Open.

In June, the United States Tennis Association confirmed it would spend $500 million over the next 10 years to build a new Louis Armstrong Stadium, a grandstand on unused land at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and a double-deck viewing area for fans to watch players practise. But there would be no roof, on either Armstrong or Ashe, the main court. It is thought engineering problems on the steep-seated Ashe, which is built on swamp land, make a roof impractical. “It’s five times larger than the span that covers Wimbledon,” Gordon Smith, the USTA’s chief operating officer, told the New York Times.

The arguments for not putting a roof on the smaller Armstrong – apart from parsimony and pig-headedness – are less convincing. One of those was voiced by Daniel Zausner, managing director of the site: “The tournament does not function with a single roof being anywhere but the main stadium. You can’t tell 23,700 people to move to Louis, which will have 15,000 seats. That leaves 8,000-plus without a seat.”

It did not occur to anyone, apparently, to put another 8,000 seats on the new “Louis”, which currently seats 10,000 people. Actually it probably did – until they checked their sums.

Around 1pm, John McEnroe looked out of his commentary window and declared, “Holy mackerel, is that sunshine out there?”

It had been a little while.

Bartoli dialled 99

When Sharapova and Bartoli finally got on court, they brought contrasting service skills to the contest – won in three sets in the end by the Russian.

Sharapova, going for power, hit 10 aces – and 11 double faults; Bartoli managed two aces in just over two and a half hours, but struck six double faults.

The winner made a keen observation later: “She was going a lot for her second serves. I think she probably had 30 serves that were 99 miles per hour second serves. It’s like she worked consistently to get 99 miles an hour. Every time I looked at the clock it was like 99, 99. [I thought] if I lose this match, I’m going to have nightmares.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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