“It’s really, really hard for me to look at myself in the context of the people that are in the Hall of Fame; I feel like they are Michael and I’m Tito,” Roddick said, referring to the singer Michael Jackson and one of his older brothers. “Tito got to play some pretty cool venues, too, but it’s weird for me.”
At a time when major singles titles are the primary barometer of tennis achievement, Roddick was not an automatic choice, something he said he understood.
“I honestly didn’t know,” he said. “I’m not Serena. I’m not Roger. I’m not one of those people where it’s almost a formality. I didn’t think it was a foregone conclusion.”
The Hall’s selection process has not been free of controversy. Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the Russian who reached No. 1 and won the Australian Open and French Open, has yet to make the cut, for example.
But Roddick was much more than a one-Slam wonder, and what helped him make it into the Hall in his first year of eligibility — he retired in 2012 — probably was his consistent presence among the game’s elite.
He not only scaled the virtual peak, finishing as the year-end No. 1 in 2003. He finished in the top 10 for nine straight years from 2002 to 2010 and led the United States Davis Cup team for most of his career, winning the trophy in 2007. Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero, another former men’s No. 1 and Grand Slam singles champion who was also eligible for the first time this year, was part of three Davis Cup-winning teams. But though Ferrero could make the cut in the future, he did not have Roddick’s staying power as a major contender.
Roddick said he was comfortable with his own selection based on the sum of his achievements, outside as well as inside the majors. He is also delighted to share the moment in Newport with Clijsters, although she will miss Tuesday’s official announcement at the Australian Open because of the recent birth of her third child.
Roddick said he has been a Clijsters fan since they first met.
“I think we were 13 and at a world youth cup event in Japan,” Roddick said. “Try being more awkward than a 12- or 13-year-old at a dance with a bunch of teams from all around the world who may not speak your language and may not understand your culture and may not whatever.
“But there was this one girl who was going around and just being really friendly to everyone and went out there and started dancing by herself and just couldn’t have cared less. She was just going to let kindness rule, and then all the sudden, five minutes later, everyone was out there with her.”
That girl was Clijsters.
“I think she was just born that way,” Roddick said. “I really wanted to get in this year when I knew she was nominated because we’ll have a great time sharing it.”
What is perhaps most symbolic is that Roddick will be joining the leading members of the great American generation that preceded him: Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. Combined, those four men won 25 Grand Slam singles titles. Swimming in their wide wake was Roddick’s career-long burden, both self-imposed and otherwise.
“I was never, ever, going to replace that generation,” Roddick said. “I would have had a hard time replacing any one of those guys. But they spoiled me when I was a kid. I got to watch them all the time, and you always had someone to be inspired by. And to kind of play that forward and to know them all has been amazing. I don’t know that a lot of people get to meet their heroes, much less spend time with them and get to actually have real conversations with them.”