Andy Roddick always starts a US Open with a reminder that time is ticking on his chances to win another Grand Slam title.
This year, his 28th birthday comes Monday on the first day of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, but he hopes the biggest party comes on the last day at Arthur Ashe Stadium as it did when he won his only Slam there in 2003.
“The urgency is always there. Birthday or no birthday, you come in trying to win one,” Roddick said. “I don’t think too much about age, number, whatever. I’ll play until I feel like I shouldn’t anymore.”
Roddick has lost four Grand Slam finals, all to Roger Federer, since taking the US Open title seven years ago in his first Grand Slam championship match. The top-ranked American lost the 2006 US Open final and dropped three Wimbledon finals, most recently last year after an epic 16-14 fifth set, the longest in any Grand Slam final.
This year, Roddick made a shocking fourth-round Wimbledon exit and it was not until earlier this month that doctors diagnosed he was suffering from mononucleosis and might have been weakened by it as far back as May.
“Some days were a lot worse than others,” Roddick said. “I got back from Wimbledon and was trying to do some track work. I had two or three in a row where it just felt off.
“It was frustrating. Had me wondering. Am I out of shape? What’s the deal? Kind of just tried to plow through it. At a certain point we had to just cover our bases and see what was going on.”
After a third-round exit at Washington, Roddick was examined and pulled out of Toronto.
He was even doubtful for the last major US Open tuneup at Cincinnati but played and made a run to the semi-finals that bolstered his confidence.
“That week was extremely necessary as far as preparation and confidence coming into this tournament,” Roddick said. “To get five good matches in six days and be a couple points from a final is something.
“Four or five days before Cincinnati started, I didn’t know if I was going to play. I hadn’t been playing well. I had been struggling. Everything was a little bit of a question mark.”
After knocking off US Open fifth seed Robin Soderling and third seed Novak Djokovic in back-to-back matches, Roddick’s spirit got the same boost his body has since shaking off an illness he says is “really, really close” behind him.
“I feel OK,” Roddick said. “I think I will be OK.”
The slump in results that went along with the illness left Roddick outside the top 10 briefly, the first time in ATP rankings history no American was in that territory.
“I didn’t really feel much of a responsibility to be the guy in the top 10,” Roddick said.
“I figure that should fall maybe on some of the guys that have never been in the top 10.”
The losses while weakened didn’t get him down either.
“I didn’t put too much stock in it,” Roddick said. “I know when I’m playing well I’m able to get deep into tournaments.”