I planned my trip to the US specifically to go and watch the US Open. I jokingly said that it may be my last chance to catch Andy Roddick in a grand slam because of rumors about him retiring soon but I really was just joking when I said that. I never really took those seriously, and I figured Andy had at least another season on tour.
So after screwing up the tickets (buying two tickets to the same session, buying the wrong kind of tickets), I managed to get one to Arthur Ashe on Tuesday, to see Andy’s first round match. It was my first time to watch Andy play. To finally see an Andy Roddick match, after the previous failed attempt at seeing him play, in a Grand Slam, in the biggest venue in the sport, was a dream come true.
I was happy to finally tick that off my bucket list, and content to leave it at that. Except that two days after, on his 30th birthday, Andy announced that he was retiring and that the US Open was going to be his final tournament.
I know I joked about it, but I couldn’t believe it. Just like that, a career, over. For me, it was the end of an era.
After the initial shock wore off, I had to make a decision. Do I scramble and splurge for tickets to Andy’s remaining matches? Pre retirement announcement, I was happy with getting to see just his first round match. But with the reality that every match could be his last, I wanted to be there. And so, bank account balance be damned, I bought tickets to Andy’s 3rd round match.
Andy won that match, and he was to meet Juan Martin del Potro in the 4th round. I thought long and hard about getting tickets to the Tuesday match. I already spent a small fortune on the 3rd round match, I had a commitment in Manhattan that night, and the weather forecast was awful. But on the other hand, Del Potro was the toughest opponent Andy has met so far and he could very well end Andy’s career.
As that F-word I was loathe to use (yep, the same one responsible for my seeing Andy in person the first time) would have it, I had tickets to the Wednesday day session. My aunt had equivalent tickets to last year’s session, but that one got completely rained out, so the USTA compensated her with tickets for the same session this year. My cousin was unable to go with her because of work, so my aunt gave her spare ticket to me.
I’ve never, ever prayed this hard for a rain delay before. Fortunately for me (I do feel bad for the ticket holders for the Tuesday night session), the rain didn’t let up and Andy and Juan’s match got rescheduled. To Wednesday. In the day session. And I had a ticket.
And so it came to be that I was there when Andy played his latch match, struck his last serve and hit his last ball as a professional tennis player.
It goes without saying that I was wreck during the match, and by the second to the last service game (and Andy’s last) I was in tears. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like for Andy, having to fight through the points, and deal with the roller coaster of emotions that he was surely going through. How conflicting it must feel to focus and try win games and perhaps the set, when you’re a game from losing the match, and effectively ending a career that started when you were a kid.
And it did end, with a love service game from del Potro. With Andy hitting a forehand long, years of watching matches into the wee hours of the morning, monitoring draws, the disappointments over tough losses, the joy over huge wins, was over.
I won’t even try to pay tribute to Andy’s distinguished career, his spirit, his contribution to the sport, his character and his wit. I don’t think I’m qualified, and other people already did it much better than I possibly could have (some of my favorites are here and here).
All I know is that I will always be grateful to be have timed my trip perfectly for this, and for the crazy circumstances that led to me getting to watch Andy’s final match.
And also, thank you, Andy. You’re already missed.