NEW YORK — Chants of “Let’s go, Andy!” rang out between points during the last service game of his career, and again before the start of what would wind up as the last return game.
Always a fan favorite at the U.S. Open, and the 2003 champion, Andy Roddick headed into retirement with a 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4 loss to Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday.
It was an emotional farewell for Roddick, who sat in his changeover chair, covering his face with a white towel, after sailing a running forehand long on the last point. He choked up during an on-court speech at Arthur Ashe Stadium, telling the crowd, “Oh, wow. For the first time in my career, I’m not sure what to say.”
“Since I was a kid, I’ve been coming to this tournament. I felt lucky just to sit where all of you are sitting today, to watch this game, to see the champions that have come and gone,” Roddick told the fans. “I’ve loved every minute of it.”
The American surprisingly announced last Thursday, his 30th birthday, that the U.S. Open would be his final tournament. That impromptu news conference came a day before Roddick’s second-round match, and he wound up winning that one, and a third-rounder, too, riding a wave of support in the stands.
But those two opponents were ranked 43rd and 59th, and the seventh-seeded del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, provided a far more daunting challenge – especially once he lifted his energy level and got his big, flat forehand cranked up.
The match was suspended because of rain Tuesday night after Roddick took the first point of the opening-set tiebreaker. They resumed more than 18 hours later in front of thousands of empty blue seats. It took Roddick only four minutes to close that set, fresh and strong as can be, while del Potro was rather sluggish.
The key, probably, was the third set. Neither man faced so much as a single break point, and this time it was del Potro’s turn to dominate the tiebreaker. Gaining more traction on his opponent’s once-all-powerful serve, del Potro whipped a cross-court forehand return right at Roddick’s feet on set point.
Roddick made a brief appearance at No. 1 after his only Grand Slam trophy – and the most recent for an American man – nine years ago.
He appeared in four other major finals, losing to Roger Federer each time, and wound up with 32 tournament titles overall.
“It’s been a road of a lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of great moments. I’ve appreciated your support along the way,” Roddick said. “I know I certainly haven’t made it easy for you at times but I really do appreciate it and love you guys with all my heart. Hopefully I’ll come back to this place someday and see all of you again.”
Del Potro joined the fans in standing to applaud.
He moved on to a quarterfinal against defending champion Novak Djokovic, who advanced when his opponent, No. 18 Stanislas Wawrinka, stopped because of illness and fatigue while trailing 6-4, 6-1, 3-1.
On the women’s side, third-seeded Serena Williams served 12 aces in a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Ana Ivanovic to advance to the semifinals.
Williams, looking to add the title at Flushing Meadows to those she won at Wimbledon and the Olympics this year, has lost 16 games through her first five matches.
Williams’ next match is against Sara Errani, the French Open runner-up this year, who beat Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-4.