NEW YORK — Everyone, it seems, wanted to talk to Andy Roddick about his loss to Roger Federer in last month's epic Wimbledon final: the 16-14 fifth set, the 77 total games, the Centre Court crowd chanting the American's name afterward.
They wanted to console Roddick, pat him on the back, tell him what that match meant to THEM. Maybe offer some advice for next time.
Fellow players in the locker room. Fans on the street. Even the guy who delivers Roddick's mail at home in Texas.
As Roddick recounted in a series of Twitter postings on July 20, two weeks after that heartbreaker at the All England Club, the mailman told him he lost "cause i sweat a lot and dont change my shirt enough during the course of a match and it weighs me down."
Roddick wrapped up the story: "the best part was that he prefaced his shirt/sweat analysis with this quote 'i dont know anything about sports or tennis but.....'"
Ah, yes, everyone's an expert, huh? Really, though, what struck Roddick the most was how much that match resonated. If anything, that one defeat figures to make the best-known and highest-seeded U.S. man at the U.S. Open even more popular than usual at the American Grand Slam tournament.
"I'm not sure what kind of made people kind of emotionally invested in it," said the No. 5-seeded Roddick, who faces 84th-ranked Bjorn Phau of Germany in the first round Monday night.
Others scheduled to play on Day 1 include five-time defending champion Roger Federer against NCAA champion Devin Britton of Jackson, Miss.; No. 21 James Blake against Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo; three-time champion Serena Williams against American wild-card entry Alexa Glatch of Newport Beach, Calif.; and 2005 champion Kim Clijsters, just back from retirement, against Viktoriya Kutuzova.
Monday's matches are the first on a Grand Slam stage for anyone since July 5, when Federer's 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14 victory over Roddick set records for most games and longest fifth set in major final history, topping marks set in 1927.
"It was amazing. Kind of did a lot for tennis," said Sam Querrey, who is seeded 22nd at the U.S. Open and generally considered the player most likely to succeed Roddick as the best from their country. "People were talking about that for a solid two, three weeks after."
And Roddick heard the chatter.
"The kind of the support I got from fans, from peers, from everybody — it was pretty surprising, in the best way possible, and pretty humbling," Roddick said. "I was really surprised when I had got back here as to how many people watched it and kind of were affected by it. To be honest, that really helped the process."
That "process" was the not-so-easy matter of digesting the punch-to-the-gut knowledge that Roddick came so close to winning Wimbledon for the first time.
This was, of course, against the Federer of six Wimbledon championships and a record 15 Grand Slam titles overall. The Federer who improved that day to 19-2 against Roddick, including 8-0 at major tournaments and 4-0 in Grand Slam finals.
"It's always tough in tennis that there are no draws. ... At the end, unfortunately, there's always going to be one winner," Federer said this weekend. "I've walked off tennis courts as a loser many, many times. I wouldn't ask for the other guy or the fans to feel sorry for me."
Roddick never asked for that, either.
Still, it could not have been easy for him to pick himself up after such a setback. That loss left Roddick stuck on one Grand Slam championship — the title he won in New York in 2003. Back then, the thinking went, it would be the first of many.
Roddick turned 27 on Sunday, and who knows how many more opportunities he'll get?
"Like anything, kind of the more you distance yourself from it, you start remembering the better things about it, as opposed to the most disappointing things about it," he said. "I promise you: I wish more than anything that I would have won that tournament. But at the same time, I'm still going to move on and keep going with the plan that we've set in place, because I feel like it is working."
It's a project he and coach Larry Stefanki launched in 2008, one that included slimming down and working more intensely than ever on Roddick's backhand, volleying and service returns.
It began to pay off with a run to the Australian Open semifinals in January, followed by his first trip to the French Open's fourth round in May. Stefanki, though, has noted that the places where Roddick most wants to excel are Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
So close at one, now he gets another chance at the other.
"At this point last year, I felt like I was playing catch-up, and not just from a tennis perspective, but I was behind the ball as far as fitness and health," said Roddick, who lost in the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows in 2008. "I was coming in here literally hoping to win a couple matches, and this year I feel a lot more confident of my ability to go out there and play well and execute."
If he does indeed manage that, he surely will hear plenty of backing from the New York crowds.
Might even get some fan mail.