U.S. tennis champion Andy Roddick reflects on his lifelong friendship with Serena Williams and the grand finale of an incomparable career at the US Open.
With the beginning of the US Open comes the beginning of the end for one of the greatest athletes of all time. Serena Williams, a tennis champion who has seen success like no other, is preparing for the final matches of her career.
Few individuals can understand what the next few weeks will be like for Serena, but former world No. 1 Andy Roddick can relate to the moment through his own experiences. Nine years after becoming the US Open men’s champion in 2003, Roddick played his last few tennis matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
In a recent interview with FanSided, Roddick spoke on how Serena is still managing to accomplish a first at the US Open, even after everything she’s done.
"“There’s not a lot of firsts left for Serena. But retiring at the US Open is a first, so as much as she knows the ins and outs of the emotions of tennis match and how to navigate through Grand Slam tournaments, this is going to be hard.I’m personally thankful that she kind of let us in a month ago so we can appreciate and celebrate her. If she loses first round or if she loses fourth round, it’s largely irrelevant. We want the ability to celebrate her, but her legacy is locked in stone. We just need to be great fans.I’ve known Venus and Serena since of eight or nine years old, so it’s emotional for me. I don’t want it to come to an end, but I also am thankful for the opportunity to kind of be in on it. So that we can celebrate and we can celebrate accordingly.”"
Andy Roddick celebrates the life and career of Serena Williams ahead of US Open
When asked about the side of Serena fans usually don’t see, Roddick spoke to the people that Venus and Serena are off the court. Roddick believes that “people don’t see enough of the lighter side of Venus and Serena,” adding that “they’re such a joy to be around.” Roddick shared a special memory of how Serena went out of her way to welcome Roddick’s son Hank into the world.
"“Well it’s funny, because she’s so competitive, right? And so the majority of time when people see her, she’s either on the court — she’s a bad lady when she’s on the court; you don’t want to mess with her — or in press right afterwards, of which I think she’s probably been guilty of going to the press room too quickly after losses sometimes.But I don’t think people see enough of the lighter side of Venus and Serena. They’re such a joy to be around when they’re not in ‘go mode.’ We’ve celebrated people’s competitiveness over the years with the greats of all time. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve given them the benefit of the doubt to have those kinds of same competitive moments.But socially, they’re just great to be around, very considerate. An example is when we had our first child, Hank, and Serena was just in Austin when we were living there at the time, and she goes, ‘I want to come meet the baby!’ And we live way out of town, she was busy but made the effort to come out, and so little things like that. I wish people got a little bit more of a peek behind the curtain, but hopefully we’ll get to see even more in the post-mortem over her playing career.”"
Although Roddick considers his retirement a “blip on the radar” compared to Serena’s, he does have a bit of advice for the woman with 23 Grand Slam singles titles: just take in the little moments at the US Open.
"“Honestly, the week that I retired and then kept playing throughout the tournament was one of my favorite weeks of my entire career. You were able to stop, take a moment, really enjoy the innocent parts of the game. Tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed, and largely it didn’t matter, right? Next week, you weren’t gonna be a tennis player anymore.Being in Arthur Ashe Stadium, instead of being down and being focused the whole time, I allowed myself to look up at the crowd a little bit more and really make a mental picture book.I hope Serena can do that. She is so hyper-focused and competitive. I hope she allows herself those small moments of relief throughout this tournament. I hope she enjoys those quiet interactions in a locker room with a friend she’s had for 20 years, and she won’t know the cadence of how often she’ll see that person from here on out.Managing those emotions was one of the harder parts. The front-facing part and actually playing was fine, but it’s those quiet moments and walking into the stadium for your match. ‘Is this the last time I’m going to walk down this tunnel as a player?’ All of those things build.I hope she takes the tact of, ‘I’m going to enjoy this. I love this,’ as opposed to being emotional about it. It’s gonna be hard. There’s not a lot of firsts out there for Serena. I’m curious to see how it goes because it’s just so unpredictable.”"
As someone who has enjoyed her friendship and her competitiveness all these years, Roddick wants Serena to drink in what it means to love and be loved by this game. The world may not be ready to say goodbye to Serena’s career, but as Roddick hopes, ideally Serena will be able to relish this year’s US Open as she goes out on her own terms.