Tennis has been transformed over the last five decades by TV, money, technology, equipment, fashion and politics. But through all of that, the players have remained at the heart of the game. As part of our golden anniversary celebration of the Open era, Tennis.com presents its list of 50 best players—the Top 25 men and the Top 25 women—of the last 50 years. You’ll be able to view the entire list in the March/April issue of TENNIS Magazine.
(Note: Only singles results were considered; any player who won a major title during the Open era had his or her entire career evaluated; all statistics are through the 2018 Australian Open.)
25. Andy Roddick
Years played: 2000–2012
Major titles: 1 (2003 US Open)
In 2013, the ATP threw a party in New York to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its computer ranking system. Gathered were No. 1 players from decades past and present, including Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe. But it was Roddick who had the line of the night: “I’m proud to be the worst player in this room,” he joked.
Technically, Roddick is also the “worst” male in our countdown of the Top 50 players of the Open era. But that’s not bad company, either. While he won just one major title—fewer than other contenders such as Marat Safin, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and Pat Rafter—Roddick edged them out on the strength of his 32 titles, 600-plus match wins, 13 weeks at No. 1 and nine straight seasons in the Top 10.
When Roddick arrived on tour in the early 2000s, he appeared ready to pick up where Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were leaving off and lead U.S. tennis into the new century. Roddick had the super-sonic serve and the killer inside-out forehand that were going to be mandatory going forward. For a while, he lived up to those sky-high expectations. In 2003, he won the US Open and edged out Federer for the year-end No. 1 ranking.
That was the last time Roddick would edge Federer out for anything, but he kept working, kept searching for new ways to win, kept listening to new voices and kept himself near the top of the game. He would fall in three Wimbledon finals to Federer, but he was rewarded for his Davis Cup service in 2007, when he led the U.S. to its first title in 12 years.
“I’m proud staying there for that long,” Roddick said of his run in the Top 10. “I didn’t have a lot of peaks and valleys. I’m proud I showed up and went about the game in a professional way.”
Defining Moment: In the 2009 Wimbledon final, Roddick had four set points to take a two-set lead over his career nemesis Federer. If he had won one of those points, and gone on to win the match, we would think of his career in an entirely different way. But he didn’t, so what we think of from that day is Roddick’s gutted, gracious, funny, humble runner-up speech. That’s not such a bad way to be remembered, either.
Watch: Andy Roddick’s TenniStory