A congratulations and an open apology to Andy Roddick

by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2012, at 11:51 am

At the beginning of this summer’s U.S. Open, 30-year-old Andy Roddick announced he was retiring. Admittedly, I had mixed feelings. It took me years to grow to appreciate Roddick and his style of play because I had been an avid fan of Pete Sampras. Roddick had burst onto the professional scene with an explosive serve that was second to none. His controversial on-court presence did not sit well with me because I interpreted it as arrogance. I recognized it, I guess, because it takes one to know one. Whenever Roddick argued with an umpire or a line judge I saw myself. Instead of pointing out my own flaws I spent years talking about his on social media. I was happy to see him lose matches, especially to Roger Federer. My poor attitude continued for years, but then something happened.

A few years ago I began to notice how reporters showed no mercy toward Roddick, constantly pressuring him to talk about not winning more majors, his rankings, and retiring. The post-match press conferences were painful to watch. I began to wonder if these reporters had souls. So when Roddick played his final match, losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round of the U.S. Open, I was torn. Why? Because looking back at his career I finally started to appreciate just how much he did for American tennis. I began to care less about his outbursts and more about the fact that Roddick had been the last American standing in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) top 10 for a number of years. In fact, as of Oct. 1, there were no Americans in the ATP men’s top 10. America is desperate for a new generation of players with Roddick’s skill.

In light of this, I was happy to hear that the Andy Roddick Foundation raised about $1 million to help fund youth programs at a new 10,000-square-foot, eight-court tennis and learning facility in Austin, Texas. With one of its chief goals “to teach character and life skills through sports-based mentoring and education,” the foundation will make a difference in Austin. And teaching virtues through such mentoring will not only serve society but will also introduce a new generation to the game of tennis.

In the end, it turns out that Andy Roddick is a better man than I allowed myself to believe, and if I had an opportunity to meet him in person I would congratulate him on a great career quickly followed by an apology for the slander and mockery I’ve directed at him over the years. It would be a great punctuation to his legacy if the opportunities afforded youth at this new Austin facility would cultivated a new generation of American players with good skills and virtuous character. What a great way to serve the game of tennis in the United States and around the world.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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