And while his fans and critics may have questioned his tactics and some of his brutish antics over his colorful career, nobody ever doubted that Roddick was always in it, 100 percent.
He had one of the biggest serves on tour and was still clocking in as high as 141 mph in a first-round win over 21-year-old American Rhyne Williams earlier this week. And he could be stubborn, willing to stay out there for hours and pound away from the baseline, even as the players got stronger, faster, more consistent and the results started going against him.
Some say his only real mistake was coming along at the wrong time, sandwiched in between the last golden era of American tennis _ Agassi and Pete Sampras _ and the current golden era of worldwide tennis, featuring Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
After his 2003 win at Flushing, Roddick ran into Federer the final four times he made a Grand Slam final and lost all four. The most memorable of the meetings was the 16-14 fifth set at Wimbledon in 2009 _ the last time Roddick played for a major title.
“But let’s forget about that,” Federer said of the loss. “He was in those Wimbledon finals. He could have gotten that title. That’s what I said when I beat him in `09. He deserves this title, as well. In my mind, he is a Wimbledon champion as well, a wonderful ambassador for the game.”
Besides settling down with his supermodel wife, Brooklyn Decker, Roddick says he wants to get more involved in a youth tennis center he’s started in Austin, Texas. He’s got other projects, too, “that excite me a lot right now.”
For now, he lives in the present, knowing every match this week (and next?) could be his last at a tennis park that has long felt like his second home.
Back in 1991, Roddick was at Flushing Meadows _ a 9-year-old kid who only had a grounds pass, but somehow made it into the stadium whenever Jimmy Connors was playing, pumping up the volume during a memorable run to the semifinals at age 39.
Is Roddick ready to let it all hang out one last time and create some magic of his own?
“We’ll see,” he said. “I wish it was a choice.”