Hanging Up the Racquet

Article excerpt

Byline: Sujay Kumar

The psychology of the final game.

Crying on center court is something of a novelty in men's tennis, but when Andy Roddick lost his final professional match last week at Arthur Ashe Stadium, it was at least the second time he's been on the brink of tears. The first was nine years ago, when he won his first and only Grand Slam on the same court.

Two weeks ago, on his 30th birthday, Roddick announced that this tournament would be his last. The 22nd-ranked tennis star warned fans that it would be an emotional goodbye. "I don't want people to think I'm a little unstable--or more unstable," he said.

Roddick's retirement came as no surprise to women's tennis legend Billie Jean King, whose storied career includes 12 Grand Slam singles titles and bragging rights in the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" match. A close friend of Roddick's--she says he's a down-to-earth guy who "drinks more beer than champagne"; he named his bulldog after her--King tells Newsweek that Roddick has looked miserable on court for the past two years. That's what injuries and age do to you. "You lose a lot more. You hate to lose. Especially if you've been No. 1."

Superstar athletes have two options when they sense their careers have entered a final act: assess their talent in the off season and then retire, or, like Roddick, launch a farewell tour mid-tournament. …