Andy Roddick's athletic version of a near-death experience Friday night was not something he was going to analyze too much. In what could have been his final professional tennis match, following his Thursday announcement that this U.S. Open will be his last tournament, he played splendidly, rendering opponent Bernard Tomic of Australia a mere prop in a thorough 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 second-round win.
"It was weird," Roddick said. "I don't know how to explain it. It was a little surreal. By no means am I an expert on this. It worked. I played well. I don't know why."
Sunday, he will be faced with the same end-of-the-line possibility when he plays 25-year-old Italian Fabio Fognini, ranked 59th in the world. But Roddick, the 2003 Open champion completing his 13th year on tour at the age of 30 and acknowledging that he is worn down physically and mentally, couldn't know that Friday.
"You know, I've played a lot of matches [822 as a pro]," he said. "That was a different kind of nerves than I've had before."
Instead of locking his focus entirely on a fuzzy yellow ball, "I took a look around and I didn't feel bad about it," he said. "When [fans] were doing the dancing and stuff on the switchovers, I was just watching."
He hadn't done that before. "When this is what you do," he said, "and what you're going to do the next week and month, you are so consumed by what's going on in the next five minutes that you don't really notice stuff. There are no guarantees for me now, so I was trying to notice stuff."
Arthur Ashe Stadium was filled with 24,674 spectators, equaling the Open record for a night session, and Roddick, knowing that the end is near, pulled back his virtual camera and took in the whole scene. It was his 27th night match in Ashe, the most played by any man since the stadium opened in 1997; in a way, Roddick became both the stage and the actor. "There were a lot of people [yet] that's the smallest it's felt to me," he said. "It almost felt cozy, for once. It's a big place for that. I felt comfortable. I don't know why . . . Who knows what will happen [today]?"
In the locker room before the match, "You start realizing the finality of the situation," Roddick said. "You think different things. I walk out for the warm-up and it's, 'Is this going to be the last warm-up?' Kind of everything. It works along those lines. It got to me a little bit.
"Larry had to come over and kind of tell me to knock it off."
He played with exuberance, charging the net more often than is typical -- 33 times, scoring 23 points there. He powered up his mighty serve to just shy of 140 miles per hour for 13 aces. "I haven't hit these numbers in two years, what I've gotten in the last two matches," he said. "Who knows why?"
The one certainty he held onto was that the sharp performance would not change his mind about retirement. "No, no," Roddick said. But he is not yet ready for an "arrivederci" from Fognini Sunday.