Time's running out for Roddick after another early exit at SW19

The symbolism was stark. As Andy Roddick left Centre Court here yesterday, crushed 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 by Feliciano Lopez, the 28-year-old American handed his racket to a young boy. Time marches on and, with each passing year Roddick's chances of realising his lifelong aim are receding as quickly as his hairline.

"If I had Wimbledon, I'd have everything I want," Roddick told an interviewer last year. He has come desperately close to climbing the mountain – never closer than two years ago, when he lost to Roger Federer in the final for the third time, losing 16-14 in an unforgettable last set – but this was further evidence that he has trouble getting beyond base camp these days.

One of Wimbledon's great favourites of the last decade admitted after this latest disappointment that the thought that he might not win the title here did sometimes cross his mind. "You're human, of course it does," he said. Nevertheless, it was good to see that the American had not lost his sense of humour. "You may never get your favourite job either," he told his questioner. "No offence to your current employer."

Roddick has now made an early exit on three of his last four appearances here. He admits that he "completely choked" against Janko Tipsarevic in the second round three years ago and gave away "a million opportunities" when losing to Yen-Hsun Lu in the fourth round last year.

The world No 10 did not think he played badly this time and gave Lopez credit for playing "an outstanding match", but the 29-year-old Spaniard, for all his excellence on grass, is not the sort of opponent you should lose to if you have ambitions of winning Grand Slam titles. Lopez had lost his last 11 matches against top 10 opponents and has had only moderate success this year.

Roddick, meanwhile, had won all seven of his previous matches against the world No 44, dropping just three sets in the process, and had beaten him on their most recent meeting a fortnight ago at Queen's Club in their first encounter on grass.

Lopez, however, can be a difficult opponent on this surface. He hits big forehands, volleys well and has a huge and – on this occasion at least – reliable left-handed serve. Like Roddick, he has won more matches here – he has twice reached the quarter-finals – than at any other Grand Slam tournament.

Nevertheless, Roddick normally has little trouble against left-handers: the former world No 1 had lost only six of his previous 45 meetings with lefties, though it was perhaps an omen that five of those defeats had been against Rafael Nadal and one against Fernando Verdasco, both Spaniards.

With two explosive servers on view – Roddick hit 23 aces and served up to 143mph while Lopez hit 26 with a top speed of 135mph – it was inevitable that breaks would be at a premium.

Lopez drew first blood in the ninth game before Roddick replied in kind, but the Spaniard played much the better tie-break, dropping only two points.

Roddick regrouped and there were no breaks of serve in the second set, though Lopez had a chance to win it when the American served at 5-6 and 30-40. As Roddick came forward behind a less than convincing approach, the Spaniard's attempted cross-court pass hit the top of the net.

Nevertheless, a template had been created. Lopez won the ensuing tie-break 7-2, making both his mini-breaks of serve with searing passing shots as Roddick again charged recklessly into the net. At 1-1 in the third set, Lopez broke serve as the pattern was repeated once again, with a helpless Roddick watching as another forehand thunderbolt flashed past him.

When Lopez hit only his second double fault on the first point at 5-4, you wondered whether his nerve might be about to crack, but the Spaniard followed up with three successive unreturned serves to create two match points. An attempted forehand pass down the line ended up in the net on the first, but on the second his deep approach forced Roddick into a backhand error.

"He served about as well as anyone has," Roddick said. "The stuff that's enabled me to beat him seven times – making passing shots under duress, making him play defence on his forehand – he did well today. He mixed up his serve."

The American refused to read too much into his defeat. "I probably played like shit in third rounds and won before," he said. "There's no script. Some days you're going to play well and lose and some days you're going to play like crap and win."

Lopez now plays the winner of yesterday's later meeting between Gaël Monfils and Lukasz Kubot, while he could be facing Roddick again in a fortnight when Spain travel to the American's home city of Austin, Texas, for a Davis Cup World Group quarter-final.

Roddick, who described his year so far as "average", said it was hard to think about that tie now but, when pressed about his longer-term future, said: "What do you do? You keep moving forward until you decide to stop. At this point, I've not decided to stop so I'll keep moving forward."

As for the racket he gave away on his exit from Centre Court, Roddick said: "I figured it was just going to go to waste. I figured a seven-year-old boy would probably get more use out of it."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam