NEW YORK -- There was a time, not so long ago, when Andy Roddick had as many Grand Slam singles titles as Roger Federer.
After Roddick won his first -- and only -- major at the 2003 U.S. Open, he and Federer both owned the same number of titles.
And it looked like Roddick and Federer, along with Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian and others, would compete for major championships for years to come.
"It looked as though [he] was going to be a dominant figure in the world game for years," Todd Martin, a two-time Grand Slam finalist, told SNY.tv.
Playing in arguably the toughest era ever for men's tennis, Roddick never did win another major and lost his final match Wednesday to Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro, 7-6 (1), 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open in an emotionally charged atmosphere at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Roddick's wife, Brooklyn Decker, seemed to hold back tears on match point, and when her husband smacked a forehand long, his career was over.
"For the first time in my career, I'm not sure what to say," an emotional Roddick told the crowd. "Where do I start? Since I was a kid, I've been coming to this tournament. I felt lucky to sit where all of you are sitting today and watch the champions who have come and gone.
"And I've loved every minute of it. It's been a road, a lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of great moments. I've appreciated your support along the way. I know I certainly haven't made it easy at times, but I certainly do appreciate it and I love you guys with all my heart."
Roddick finished with 612 career wins and 32 titles, but his talents were eclipsed by Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have won 29 of the last 30 majors, with del Potro's win here in 2009 the only exception.
"Through really no fault of his own [he] got passed by Fed, Nadal, Djokovic, [Andy] Murray and he handled that well," Martin said. "He handled that like a true competitor. He was angry about it, but he worked hard to stop it. But he accepted it in a gracious way."
Roddick lost three Wimbledon finals to Federer -- including a heart-wrenching 16-14 loss in the fifth set in the 2009 final.
"As much as I was disappointed and frustrated at times, I'm not sure that I ever felt sorry for myself or begrudged anybody any of their success," Roddick said last Thursday.
Indeed, Federer owns a record 17 majors and, at 31, shows no signs of letting up. Nadal, who is out of this year's U.S. Open and sidelined for a couple of months with knee troubles, has 10. Djokovic has won five majors, including four of the last seven.
"First of all, I think that the era that he's playing in right now with Rafa and Novak up there as well is maybe the toughest of all time to win majors," seven-time Grand Slam winner Mats Wilander told SNY.tv.
During the 1980s, Wilander competed against John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and later Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, but he says that era cannot compare to this one.
"In the '80s, the difference was there maybe were seven or eight guys that were out there literally thinking that they were going to win every tournament and now there's been three, I guess," Wilander said.
He added: "But to break through and win one [now] because of the three I think has been by far the most difficult time to play tennis, yes."
Martin came up in the '90s with a group of fellow Americans that included Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. Those four combined to win 27 Grand Slam titles.
But even that group didn't dominate the top levels of the game the way Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have in recent years.
"It was easier to catch Pete and Andre and the like on a bad day," Martin said. "Courts were quicker, the balls were quicker, the strings weren't as forgiving. But now these guys are the best, they're the most physical and they're pretty rough."
Roddick followed the Sampras/Agassi Era and Martin said too much pressure was put on him at a young age to live up to their lofty accomplishments.
"He was anointed the top dog a little bit prematurely for his benefit," Martin said of Roddick, who became No. 1 in the world at 21. "It was good for him commercially but I think from a pressure standpoint, being identified as the replacement, was for sure a lot of pressure."
Said Roddick: "It's not something that's easy every day, for sure, especially when you get kind of anointed at a young age, 17, 18. It's something you roll with....
"I wouldn't trade a day of it, I've loved every minute."
Roddick also led the U.S. Davis Cup team to the 2007 title and 33 singles victories in Davis Cup competition, second only to McEnroe's 41.
"He's pulled the heaviest load of I think any American player for American tennis," Wilander said.
"To follow Pete and Andre and Michael Chang and Jim Courier and John and Jimmy before them. And he's pulled the Davis Cup team together. I think he's probably done more for American tennis in relative terms than anybody else because you tend to associate [him] with one major and being No. 1 once, but he did so much more for tennis.
"I mean, he really did for American tennis what a six-, seven-time Grand Slam champion could've ever done."
Wilander said what made Roddick unique is that he really nurtured and rooted for younger Americans like John Isner and Sam Querrey and now Ryan Harrison, Jack Sock and Rhyne Williams.
"Everybody talks about Andy Roddick," Wilander said. "Ryan Harrison talks about Andy Roddick. I mean, he's done so much for his generation and shared way more of his knowledge and really generally wanted his compatriots to do well, and that's not always the case."
From where Wilander sits, Roddick would be a tremendous commentator or broadcaster if he ever chose to go that route because he is honest and tells it how it is.
Much like McEnroe, who has made an entire second and third act out of his broadcasting career.
Still, Wilander says his impact on the game transcends that number.
"Oh sure, that's what I mean," Wilander said. "I think Andy Roddick has so much more than his tennis. I think he's built his whole personality is more valuable and more powerful than anything he did on the tennis court and something like that lasts a lifetime, whereas the players that are great on-court and maybe you don't necessarily want to hear from them afterwards."
After his last match here, we won't be hearing from Andy Roddick on the tennis court anymore, but his legacy may have been far greater in terms of what he did for American tennis overall.