A woman, nine men, a few Grand Slam winners, some former world number ones, but also doubles specialists. Here's the definitive list of the 10 most outstanding personalities who retired from tennis in 2012.
Kim Clijsters, 29 years old
Ladies first, or rather THE lady, the only one on this list and the only recent retiree from the WTA Tour. But what a woman! Winner of 41 tournaments, including three U.S. Open and one Australian Open, the Belgian had many friends on the tour, admiring her for her fair play, her kindness and, of course, her great talent. Among many other achievements, she was, last year, the first mother in tennis history to be World No. 1, returning to the top level after putting her career on hold for the first time in 2007. Dealing with the baby bottles, the interrupted nights and still managing to beat everyone on the courts in her day job earned her the nickname "Super Mom." A modern hero.
Jose Acasuso, 30 years old
Last February, "Chucho" said stop. Stop to an honest clay-court career, as the good Argentine player that he is. His three trophies on the ATP Tour have all been won on the slowest surface. But his best performance remains his semi-final at the 2006 Hamburg Masters 1000, after having successively beaten Ljubicic, Grosjean and Verdasco. This performance allowed him to make it, for the first and only time in his career, into the world top 20. That same year, he smashed Lleyton Hewitt during a round of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas played in Buenos Aires. "This guy believes that he's coming to a country at war, that there are bombings like in Iraq" he cursed while the Australian was hiding behind bodyguards. Never bruise the pride of an Argentinian man. Never.
Andy Roddick, 30 years old
It was during the latest edition of the U.S. Open that Andy Roddick decided to end his tennis career. At home, at the site of his greatest achievement, obtained almost a decade ago: a Grand Slam victory and with it the world number 1 ranking at only 21 years old. Subsequently overtaken by a generation of exceptional players, the magnificent Yankee server nevertheless managed somewhat of a revival in 2009 and 2010, with a final at Wimbledon and a victory at the Miami Masters 1000. So long, Andy.
Fernando Gonzalez, 32 years old
Marcelo Rios’ successor in the hearts of Chilean tennis fans may not have the glittering prize list of "Chino", but can still be proud of a wonderful career. At ease on all surfaces, he left the tour with 11 titles in his back pocket and as many lost finals, including a prestigious one against Roger Federer at the Australian Open in 2007. We shouldn't forget his three Olympic medals, of three different metals, won in singles and doubles in the 2004 and 2008 Games. Even King Federer hasn’t done better.
Juan Carlos Ferrero, 32 years old
As a symbol, the Spaniard retired the same year that Andy Roddick. The two made hay in the early 2000s during the transition from the Sampras era to the Federer era. Like the American, Ferrero was also for a while on top of the ATP rankings after his victory at Roland Garros in 2003. A clay specialist, he was nevertheless able to perform on all surfaces, with in his track record showing a final at the U.S. Open, a semi-final in Australia and two quarter-finals at Wimbledon after several years of forced anonymity due to injuries and the emergence of a certain... Rafael Nadal. The final whistle blew at his home tournament in Valencia in September.
Ivan Ljubicic, 33 years old
The Croatian giant, a key player in his country's victory in the 2005 edition of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, was known as much for his devastating service as for his outspokenness. But it was his dedication that we will remember because, after three lost Masters 1000 finals, he would eventually claim his greatest victory at Indian Wells in 2010, in the twilight of his career. Four years before, he got his best result in a Grand Slam, at the French Open, and his best ATP ranking, a third place worldwide. His large silhouette is already greatly missed on the tour, that's for sure. In particular by Mickaël Llodra who, at the Miami tournament in March 2005, was hidden, naked, in the Croat’s locker. When Ivan opened it, the Frenchman said: "I try to capture your positive energy. You win way too many matches."
Arnaud Clement, 34 years old
If we had to keep just one memory of the long career of "The Key" on the ATP Tour, it would be his journey at the Australian Open in 2001, where he heroically took out Kafelnikov in the quarter-final and his compatriot Sebastian Grosjean in semi-final to reach the final, where he lost to Agassi. A tennis player with a strong team spirit, it was then in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas that he had his most beautiful emotions, in singles and doubles. It is therefore logical that since his official retirement, he was chosen to succeed to Guy Forget as France team captain. Tsonga, Monfils, Simon and co are in good hands...
Rainer Schüttler, 36 years old
A final at the Australian Open in 2003, a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, a semi-final at Wimbledon in 2008: it only took a handful of matches, won at the right time, for Reiner Schuettler to acquire a prestigious prize list. At least he was able to succeed Michael Stich as the flag-bearer of German tennis for a few years, along with Tommy Haas, pending the emergence of the present generation, that of Kohlschreiber, Mayer and Benjamin Becker.
Alexander Waske, 37 years old
It’s not for his 5 Challenger titles and his career-high of 89th place worldwide in 2006 that the name of Alexander Waske will be remembered, but more for his very decent career in doubles, rewarded by 16 victories. The most beautiful? At Barcelona with Andrei Pavel, against the Spanish pair Rafael Nadal and Bartolomé Salva-Vidal. Ok, it’s nothing crazy but many players on the tour wouldn't say “no” to a victory against Rafa.
Mark Knowles, 41 years old
The other doubles specialist to stow away his rackets for good this year has a far more prestigious track record: 55 victories out of a total of 99 finals played on the ATP Tour! The dreaded pair he formed with the Canadian Daniel Nestor captured three Grand Slam titles. The Bahamian put an end to his career in September, after a final victory won this year in San Jose with the Belgian Xavier Malisse. His fellow countrymen can thank him for making the Bahamas shine elsewhere than on a running track.
By Régis Delanoë