At first glance, it is easy to look at Andy Roddick’s career as a disappointment.
At age 20, he burst on to the tennis scene, winning the U.S. Open, and America’s love for the next generation of U.S. stardom began.
Several frustrating years and near misses later, Roddick announced on his 30th birthday that he would retire after this year’s U.S. Open.
But take a closer look at Roddick’s career and, while it may be disappointing, it was nothing short of spectacular.
He just played in the wrong era — the era of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and now Novak Djokovic.
Since Roddick won his U.S. Open title nine years ago, one — just one (Juan Martin del Potro) — other player has won a grand slam outside of The Big Three.
And Roddick has had his chances.
He made three Wimbledon finals and one more U.S. Open final, but went up against the greatest player in the history of tennis: Federer.
In 2004 and 2005 at Wimbledon and 2006 at the U.S. Open, he was no match for Swiss star, who was entering his prime.
But in 2009, Roddick played the match of his life at Wimbledon. The only problem was, so did Federer.
In the end, it was a 16-14 fifth set that gave Federer the Wimbledon title and closed the books on perhaps the greatest match in tennis history.
Turn that result around and nobody would be calling Roddick a disappointment. Nobody would be calling him a one-slam wonder.
He simply would be remembered as he should be — as one of the greatest players in the greatest era of tennis.
Federer has 17 grand slam titles — three more than Pete Sampras. Nadal already has 11 and is the greatest player ever on clay, and Djokovic is coming off the greatest men’s season in the open era, where he won three majors and made the semis of the French Open, losing to Federer.
Roddick is the fourth member of that elite group — the only other to make finals in more than two grand slams during the past decade — and the only dominant male American player since Andre Agassi.
His serve is the fastest ever and led him to finishing in the year-end top 10 rankings for nine consecutive years (2002-10). Federer just passed him this year.
Roddick led the U.S. to its first Davis Cup championship in 2007, always loving to play for his country.
That country has embraced Roddick in good times and bad, packing Arthur Ashe Stadium every night he is on court.
I was one of those fans last year, watching Roddick win a night match at the U.S. Open.
There is nothing that quite compares with the roar Roddick receives when he walks out onto the court at Arthur Ashe.
Watching Britain’s Andy Murray play in the Olympics at Wimbledon was similar, but Centre Court is only a third of the size of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
In America, everything is bigger. That is why we love Roddick.
He has the biggest serve, plays the biggest matches in the biggest stadium on the world’s biggest stage.
Now, without him, American tennis will have the biggest empty feeling - and it is officially the beginning of the end for the greatest era in tennis.
Contact Dan D’Addona at firstname.lastname@example.org or (616) 546-4276. Follow him on Facebook at Holland Sentinel Sports and on Twitter @DanDAddona.