They were raised far from the perpetual motion of Times Square, and even as recently as a decade or so ago, they might have had a hard time identifying which subway line runs to Flushing. But when the time came to close an important chapter in their lives—and to begin a new one—Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters knew there was no better place than New York.
Their careers certainly have had very different trajectories, and their styles and personalities are singular. But Mr. Roddick and Ms. Clijsters have one very important thing in common. Their tennis legacies were written on the hard courts of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Queens.
Both Mr. Roddick, who won the U.S. Open in 2003, and Ms. Clijsters, a champion in 2005, 2009 and 2010, chose to end their career at this year’s Open. Ms. Clijsters made it clear months ago that she would be hanging up her tennis bag after her last match in Flushing this year. Mr. Roddick surprised the tennis world by announcing mid-tournament that he, too, would retire after the Open.
Both players won the hearts and loyalties of New York’s discerning tennis fans with their professionalism, charisma and sense of style. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Mr. Roddick married a woman named Brooklyn (although she’s from Ohio, and they live in Texas), and Ms. Clijsters married a Jersey guy and now lives (among other places) on the Jersey Shore.
They may not have been New Yorkers, but they clearly felt at home here. It was in Flushing a decade ago that Mr. Roddick won his only major championship, and from that time until this week, he carried the flag for American men’s tennis in the post-Pete Sampras era. It was his bad luck to come of age just before a young Swiss champion, Roger Federer, burst on the scene, to be followed by another great champion, Rafael Nadal. Mr. Roddick never did get that second major championship. But he’ll always have Flushing.
Arthur Ashe Stadium was the setting for Ms. Clijsters’s comeback from a premature retirement in 2007, about a year before she gave birth to her daughter. Beginning with her opening match in 2009, she went on a two-year tear, winning back-to-back championships. New York’s supposedly hardened, sophisticated fans melted at the sight of Ms. Clijsters hugging her daughter after those two memorable victories.
The Open produces winners every year, but not every champion captures the city’s imagination. These two did—so it was fitting and gracious that they chose New York for their final matches.
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