Retiring Roddick owns the moment, Tomic
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- Everything felt surreal for Andy Roddick after he announced the U.S. Open would be his last tournament.
Sitting in the locker room, he wondered whether this would be his last time there. Walking to the court, he passed a television screen showing a sentimental retrospective of his career. Looking up at the crowd, watching people dance during changeovers -- was this his last chance to soak it all in?
"It got to me a little bit," Roddick said.
To hear him tell it, his day sounded a bit like the scene from "The Sixth Sense" in which Bruce Willis realizes he's a ghost.
But once on the court Friday, No. 20 Roddick came quickly back to life. There was Roddick circa 2003, the year he won his U.S. Open title. His forehand blazed up the line. He consistently nailed aces to the line at speeds in the high 130s.
"I haven't hit these numbers in two years," said Roddick, who lacked explanation for how he was able to play completely unlike a man about to leave tennis behind.
The 30-year-old American betrayed no signs of fatigue while dispatching Australian Bernard Tomic 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in a second-round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"He played the best match he's played all year maybe," said his brother John Roddick, a tennis coach himself who watched from the player box. "He played a great match tonight -- tactically, execution-wise, really hit the ball and well and was aggressive. I think just maybe saying it was the end took a little pressure off and, just go out and play. And sometimes when that happens, it's a little bit easier to play."
This was Andy Roddick's court, from the red, white and blue sneakers on his feet to the moment he raised his hands to the rafters after rousing the crowd with one of his signature points -- at times cagey or powerful, and always long.
"The stadium, there were a lot of people," Roddick said. "That's the smallest it felt to me. It almost felt cozy for once. It's a big place for that."
Tomic might someday be a great player. With his crafty shots and ability to take away pace, he is one of those discussed in the next generation of potential greats. But he did not announce his arrival like a 19-year-old Roger Federer did at Wimbledon in 2001 when he beat a fading Pete Sampras.
If anything, a stirring lack of effort in the third set -- in which he won just five points -- seems to point to a lack of seasoning. Then there was the impetuousness of Tomic's approach to challenges. He lost all three times he threw the proverbial red flag and was out of challenges before the second set concluded.
"He'll be fine," Roddick said. "I can relate a little bit. ... He's going to be great one day and not so good the next day. If I had one piece of advice, I would tell him it's probably never as good as it seems at a given moment, and it's probably never as bad as it seems at a given moment as well."
Sage advice from a player who used to have an impressive temper himself.
Roddick said he has mellowed. He has even struck up a friendship this year with fellow veteran Lleyton Hewitt -- another player given to difficult moments. Now, they text.
"It's funny, the cycle we were talking about earlier and how that's come full circle," Roddick said.
It seems only yesterday that Roddick announced his retirement. OK, so it was, but in the intervening hours, he has been lauded and eulogized and cheered from all corners. He has had two news conferences that were reflective and raw, a bit like therapy.
It has been puzzling and emotional -- and still there is another match to play. Roddick must find a way to regroup to face unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini in the third round. How will he manage?
"I don't know," Roddick said. "I've never done it before."