Stepping Off the Court: Tennis Retirees of 2012

The new tennis season is fast approaching, and the best players in the world are busy training hard in preparation for another demanding and gruelling year on tour. But before we launch into 2013, we should take a moment to reflect on the careers and legacies of those who hung up their racquets for the last time in 2012…

Biggest ATP Retirement: Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick

On his 30th birthday, Andy Roddick called a press conference and revealed that the 2012 US Open would be his final competitive tournament. The decision caught everyone by surprise, but it seemed fitting for a man who, used to giving his all, knew that his body was no longer able to withstand a brutal training and playing regime.

Roddick had been his country’s number one player for most of the last decade. Blessed with one of the biggest serves in the history of the game, he regularly sent down unreturnable deliveries of over 220km/h, accompanied by his trademark compact swing and shotgun-like pop. He resembled an exuberant puppy on the court, pouncing on short balls and unleashing his formidable off-forehand with relish. Not the most naturally fluid of players, Roddick constantly strove to expand his arsenal of shots, and developed a very effective all-court game. Occasionally, his temper got the better of him, and umpires were often in his firing line, but he earned a reputation for being extremely gracious in defeat, and was a fan favourite wherever he played.

At the time, his 2003 US Open win seemed to herald the arrival of a new hero in American tennis, but Roddick’s main misfortune was to have shared an era with Roger Federer. He fell to the Swiss in four Grand Slam finals, including three at Wimbledon. The most heartbreaking was a 16-14 loss in the deciding set of the 2009 Wimbledon final, a match in which Roddick’s serve was broken only once. In all, he had a 3-21 record against Federer, and one wonders how much more decorated the Nebraskan’s career would have been without that perennial obstacle.

Biggest WTA Retirement: Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters has the distinction of retiring for a second time in 2012. The Belgian originally called it a day in 2007, citing mounting injuries and her desire to start a family. The lure of competition proved too strong, however, and she returned to the WTA tour in 2009.

Unlike many sporting comebacks, Clijsters’ “second” career was more successful than the first. She had arrived on the tennis scene in the late nineties with a big baseline game and unimpeachable all-court defence: fans would wince in wonder as she executed her famous “splits” slide in an effort to chase down every ball. But there was a sense that Clijsters was just too nice to succeed on the biggest stages. From 2001 – 2004 she lost four Grand Slam finals – three of them to her compatriot Justine Henin – and although she climbed to number one in the rankings in 2003, it wasn’t until the 2005 US Open that she won her first major title.

Returning to the tour in summer 2009, Clijsters, without a computer ranking, needed a wild card to gain entry to the US Open. Exceeding everyone’s expectations, including her own, she charged to a second Grand Slam trophy in New York, beating Serena Williams on the way. She defended her title the following year, and added a fourth major to her résumé at the 2011 Australian Open.

During the second phase of her career, Clijsters became one of the most mentally tough players in the game, a significant change from her early days on tour. But her fierce style of play and on-court intensity were in marked contrast to the friendly, jovial woman beloved by rivals and fansthroughout the world. One of the most popular players of recent times, Clijsters will be sorely missed on the WTA tour.

Other Players We Said Goodbye to in 2012

Juan Carlos Ferrero

Juan Carlos Ferrero

A less-than-imposing stature didn’t stop Juan Carlos Ferrero from becoming one of the most accomplished players of his generation. Nicknamed “Mosquito” because of his speed, agility and aggressive style of play, the Spaniard’s standout year was 2003, when he won the French Open, reached the US Open final and briefly topped the world rankings. Although most of his 16 career titles were on clay, Ferrero was notable for having a game that transferred to all surfaces, and he reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon twice. Ferrero’s consistency and world-beating form tailed off in the second half of his career, but he remained an entertaining, stylish and popular player wherever he played.

Fernando Gonzalez

Fernando Gonzalez

Like Ferrero, Fernando Gonzalez was bestowed with a useful moniker to sum up his strengths as a player. The “Mano de Piedra” or “Stone Hand” from Chile had one of the most brutal forehands ever seen on the tennis court, and used it to devastating effect in victories over the likes of Federer, Nadal, Sampras, Agassi and Hewitt. Although he enjoyed most success on clay courts, Gonzalez reached at least the quarter-final stage of all four Grand Slam tournaments, and was runner-up at the 2007 Australian Open. His greatest achievements, however, came when he was playing for his country. He won the singles bronze and doubles gold medals at the Athens Olympics, and a singles silver medal in Beijing four years later.

Gisela Dulko

Gisela Dulko

Perhaps not a household name, Gisela Dulko was a player no top seed wanted to see in their section of the draw. During her singles career, the Argentine earned a reputation as a giant-killer at major events: among her many illustrious victims were Martina Navratilova, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport and Victoria Azarenka. Dulko enjoyed even more success in doubles, reaching the rankings summit in 2010 and winning the Australian Open 2011. A personable player with an entertaining game, she decided to bow out at the age of 27 after a serious leg injury forced her off court for much of 2012.

Rainer Schuttler

Rainer Schuttler was the last German to reach a Grand Slam final when he lost to Andre Agassi in the 2003 Australian Open and also won a silver medal in the doubles at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He is now planning a second career as co-organiser of a new ATP event – the Power Horse Cup in Dusseldorf – which will take place in May next year.

Arnaud Clement

Arnaud Clément

A surprising finalist at the 2001 Australian Open, Arnaud Clement is France’s new Davis Cup captain.

Ivan Ljubicic

Ivan Ljubicic

The 33-year-old Croatian, who won 10 titles over his career, considers career in tennis politics.

Mark Knowles

Mark Knowles

Winner of 55 doubles titles, 42-year-old Mark Knowles announced his retirement at the 2012 US Open.

Article by Steven Webb.
Steven Webb writes for Live-Tennis.com, an award-winning tennis, news and live stream website. Join this popular tennis community for the latest news, match previews and live streaming information for the ATP & WTA circuit including Grand Slams like the Australian Open.

Photos by Tennis Buzz: Andy Roddick Paris Bercy 2010, Kim Clijsters Open GDF 2011, Juan Carlos Ferrero French Open 2004, Fernando Gonzalez 2006 US Open, Gisela Dulko French Open 2012, Arnaud Clément Trophée Lagardère 2010, Ivan Ljubicic French Open 2011, Mark Knowles French Open 2011)

Next champion to retire?

  • Lleyton Hewitt (29%, 24 Votes)
  • Venus Williams (17%, 14 Votes)
  • Rafael Nadal (14%, 12 Votes)
  • Francesca Schiavone (11%, 9 Votes)
  • Tommy Haas (11%, 9 Votes)
  • Robin Soderling (8%, 7 Votes)
  • David Nalbandian (7%, 6 Votes)
  • Other (4%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 84

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