WIMBLEDON, England – Head bowed, Andy Roddick trudged off Centre Court, his purple Wimbledon towel dragging along the turf.
As the three-time runner-up at the All England Club headed for the exit, he passed some kids clamoring for an autograph from their front-row perch. Roddick paused and tossed his blue-framed racket underhand. Thanks to his latest earlier-than-anticipated Grand Slam loss, the American won’t be needing it next week.
The eighth-seeded Roddick departed quickly Friday, beaten 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), 6-4 in the third round by unseeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain. Lopez served spectacularly well, hitting 28 aces, and finally got the better of the 2003 U.S. Open champion after losing all seven previous matches they played.
Roddick turns 29 in August, and he was asked whether, as the years go by, one particularly depressing thought creeps into his mind: He might never win Wimbledon.
“Well, sure. You’re human. I mean, of course it does,” he replied. Then, speaking directly to the reporter, Roddick added: “You know, you may never get your favorite job, either – no offense to your current employer.”
Roddick lost to Roger Federer in the 2004, 2005 and 2009 finals – 16-14 in the fifth set of that last one – but only made it as far as the fourth round last year, and second round in 2008.
“What do you do? You keep moving forward until you decide to stop,” Roddick said. “At this point, I’ve not decided to stop, so I’ll keep moving forward.”
He hasn’t been past the quarterfinals at any of the past seven major tournaments; he withdrew from the French Open in May because of a right shoulder injury, but said he’s healthy at the moment.
That, in part, is why Roddick figured he’d make a deep run at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.
“He gears a lot of his year for Wimbledon. It’s a tough loss,” said Roddick’s coach, Larry Stefanki. “He’s disappointed. Very disappointed.”
It didn’t help that Lopez was nearly perfect, conjuring up 57 winners and eight unforced errors.
Because of rain, only two other third-round men’s matches finished: No. 4 Andy Murray moved forward in his bid to give Britain its first male champion at Wimbledon since 1936, beating Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) with the help of a behind-the-back, between-the-legs trick shot under the Centre Court roof; and No. 17 Richard Gasquet of France beat Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Murray plays Gasquet next.
Roddick is the highest-seeded man out of the tournament so far. Two of the top three women already are gone: No. 2 Vera Zvonareva, the runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2010, was eliminated by No. 32 Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-3 Friday, less than 24 hours after No. 3 Li Na, the French Open champion, lost.
Pironkova reached the semifinals last year, when she upset five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, and they’ll have a rematch in the fourth round next week. Williams overpowered 76th-ranked Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain 6-0, 6-2 on Court 1.
Another past Wimbledon winner, Maria Sharapova, defeated 17-year-old Laura Robson of Britain 7-6 (4), 6-3.