Emotional Roddick Glad To Have Played With 'Big Four'
They beat him in ATP World Tour finals and denied him his Grand Slam dreams. But Andy Roddick said on Saturday during his induction speech at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport that he feels fortunate, not unlucky, to have played at the same time as all-time greats Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
“I can't believe the level of tennis that I got to see in my career. The shots hit, the records that were broken, and the records that continue to be broken. Thanks to Murray, Novak, Roger and Rafa for playing the game at a higher level than it's ever been played,” Roddick said.
Trying to win titles against the 'Big Four' had its downside, to be sure, he said. But the American views his career through this prism: He had the privilege of competing against some of the greatest players who have gripped a racquet.
“The 'Big Four' guys really pissed me off most of the time but I'm absolutely proud to have my life and career associated with such quality individuals,” Roddick said. “I got to guard Jordan, I went the distance with Ali, I pitched to Babe Ruth. I feel like I know what it must have been like to watch Picasso. I saw it all.”
He and the foursome also remain friendly. Federer was the first person to send Roddick a congratulatory text on Saturday. “He's just a great human,” Roddick said.
Sporting his new Hall of Fame blue blazer, Roddick, as he was throughout his career, was self-deprecating, witty and funny during his 27-minute speech that concluded the induction ceremony on Stadium Court at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open. The big-hitter who thrived on quick surfaces joked about his clay-court skills, remembering how he felt destined after watching the 1989 Roland Garros fourth-round match between Michael Chang and Ivan Lendl, the first match Roddick saw.
“That's when I knew I was going to win Roland Garros,” he said to a stadium full of laughter. “I actually wrote, 'Pause for laughter'.”
He also mocked his overall level while taking time to individually thank all of his coaches, including Brad Gilbert and Larry Stefanki, who both attended. “I've had a lot of coaches, that's what happens when you're not very talented,” said Roddick, who won 32 tour-level titles, including the 2003 US Open and five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns.
But the model for consistency on the tour – Roddick finished in the year-end Top 10 nine consecutive years – was also serious and immensely appreciative in front of a supportive crowd. He fought back tears when talking about those who couldn't be with him today and about what the prestigious Hall of Fame honour means to him, his team, and his family and friends.
“We're all getting into the Hall of Fame,” Roddick told those close to him when he learned the news.
He remarked about his late agent, Ken Meyerson, and what he would say to his late father, Jerry Roddick, who passed away suddenly on 8 August 2014.
“It would have meant the world to me to know that he approved of the way my life turned out. I would have loved hearing it,” Roddick said. “It won't happen but I sit here knowing he would have been proud and satisfied. He wasn't an easy man to satisfy.”
Longtime fans of his made their emotions known as well. “We love you, Andy!” they shouted.
Doug Spreen, Roddick's longtime trainer, introduced the American, recounting his accomplishments and playing style.
“Andy played the game of tennis the way it should be played. He played with enthusiasm, pride, passion, and insatiable desire to win, and he played with great effort and with great heart. And, yes, there was that serve, Andy played with power,” Spreen said.
Roddick's booming delivery led him to much of his success, but, more than his 140 m.p.h. serve, the Nebraska native was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame for his drive and his desire to squeeze everything about of his abilities. He fell short of some of his goals, but Roddick retired with no regrets; he had tried everything.
“I'm not the best of all-time. I'm not going to win Wimbledon. I'm not the best of my generation. I'm not the most well-behaved. I'm not the most polished,” Roddick said. “I'm also never going to take this honour for granted. I'm never going to forget those who paved the way for us... I may not be a lot of things, but from this day forward, I'll never be anything less than a Hall of Famer. I thank you from the deepest parts of my heart.”