“Look, you’re always going to have someone around,” Federer said when he heard about Roddick’s plan to call it quits. “I had many guys also who denied me many things. That was the last thing that came to my mind when he told me that he was going to retire.
“There’s no rules on how you announce it, how you do it. We’ve seen so many champions go out in different ways. … He’s had an amazing career. Some expected better; some expected worse. But I’m sure he’s happy with what he achieved,” Federer added, “because he almost achieved everything he ever wanted.”
Roddick had way more personality than Sampras, but only that one major title and too few of the gut-wrenching wins that cemented his countryman’s place as one of the game’s all-time best. Roddick has decided not to fight the ravages of age either, a struggle that ennobled Agassi and made the unfulfilled promise of his youth a lot easier to forget.
Ultimately, Roddick’s reputation will be that of a caretaker, a player who was overmatched but not overwhelmed by the responsibility of being the standard-bearer for a generation of American players. He never shirked his duty when the Davis Cup rolled around and rarely passed up an opportunity to mentor the kids coming up behind him. There’s no shame in that. But considering how little time Roddick set aside to accept thanks, there’s not likely to be much of a celebration, either. He wanted it that way, too.
“It was always a tall task. You’re coming off of what will always be the greatest generation, or two generations, from anyplace ever, so it was always going to be a steep hill. But it’s something that I never wanted to really shy away from, knowing it’s almost mission impossible. I felt,” he said finally, “like it was a responsibility … and I did my best.”
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.
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