NEW YORK (AP) — More than an hour after hitting one last shot as a professional tennis player, then delivering one last, voice-wavering speech to an adoring U.S. Open audience, Andy Roddick exited the locker room one last time.
Accompanied by his wife and other family members, a black baseball cap tugged low over his eyes, Roddick slung a racket bag off his aching right shoulder — the one responsible for so many high-speed aces, violent forehands and the most recent Grand Slam title by an American man — and tossed the equipment in the back of a waiting van.
Won't need that any longer.
Serenaded by choruses of "Let's go, Andy!" that rang through Arthur Ashe Stadium in the closing moments of his career, the 2003 U.S. Open champion headed into retirement with a 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4 loss to 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday.
"If we do badly, then it costs us something; if we do well, we get great things. This was about something bigger. It wasn't about ranking points or paychecks or anything else," Roddick said. "This week I felt like I was 12 years old, playing in a park. It was extremely innocent. That was fun. I enjoyed it."
His defeat was significant, if not as unexpected as top-seeded Roger Federer's 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 quarterfinal loss was several hours later against No. 6 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. Federer won five of his record 17 Grand Slam championships at the U.S. Open and was bidding to reach the semifinals in New York for the ninth consecutive year.
But Federer's famous forehand was way off most of the evening, while the 6-foot-5 Berdych kept pounding fast serves and dangerous groundstrokes right where he wanted them. It was Berdych's fourth victory in his last seven meetings against Federer, including in the 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinals en route to a runner-up finish there.
"There is something in my game that he doesn't like," Berdych said.
Now he will play Olympic champion Andy Murray for a berth in the U.S. Open final.
"I wish I could have played better," said Federer, whose 40 unforced errors were nearly twice as many as Berdych's 21. "So many moments I thought, 'Man, it's just not happening for me.'"
Roddick's earlier goodbye was bittersweet. For the fans who gave him a standing ovation at the end — del Potro joined in, rising from his changeover chair to applaud — and for Roddick himself.
He covered his face with a white towel while seated on the sideline after sailing a running forehand long with the final swing of his racket. Earlier, he appeared to be trying to avoid crying while serving in the next-to-last game; in the stands, his wife, model-actress Brooklyn Decker, stuck a finger underneath her sunglasses to wipe away tears.
"Playing the last five games was pretty hard. Once I got down a break, I could barely look at my (guest) box," Roddick said during a news conference sprinkled with the sort of witty one-liners he quickly came to be known for after turning pro in 2000. "I don't know what the emotions are. I'm a little overwhelmed right now. I normally feel like I can grasp things pretty quickly and clearly. I certainly don't feel that way right now."
During an on-court address to the crowd, Roddick got choked up, particularly when making a reference to his longtime agent, Ken Meyerson, who died last year.
When handed a microphone, Roddick began by saying: "Oh, wow. For the first time in my career, I'm not sure what to say."
"Since I was a kid, I've been coming to this tournament. I felt lucky just to sit where all of you are sitting today, to watch this game, to see the champions that have come and gone," Roddick told the fans in a moment reminiscent of Andre Agassi's farewell speech at the 2006 U.S. Open after his final match. "I've loved every minute of it."
It was appropriate that Roddick would leave tennis at Flushing Meadows, which is why he surprisingly announced last Thursday, his 30th birthday, that the U.S. Open would be his final tournament. A perfect bookend: He visited the hard-court Grand Slam tournament at age 9, a trip his parents gave him as a birthday present.
He would go on to win a junior title in New York, then the 2003 men's trophy at age 21, allowing him to end that season No. 1 in the ATP rankings. He later participated in four other major finals — one at the U.S. Open, three at Wimbledon — and lost each to Federer, including a 16-14 fifth set at the All England Club in 2009.
"In my mind," Federer said last week, "he is a Wimbledon champion."
Federer, of course, really is a Wimbledon champion, seven times in all, while Berdych is still seeking his first major title anywhere. But Berdych is exactly the type of player who can give Federer trouble, a tall guy who hits the ball hard.