TIME FOR THE BIG "R"
Oct 27, 2012, 9:52:53 AM | by
When I look back on the 2012 tennis year one aspect stands out for me. It was the year of retirements and not retirements of run-of-the-mill players but indeed players with profiles. Prominent players. Players who...
When I look back on the 2012 tennis year one aspect stands out for me. It was the year of retirements and not retirements of run-of-the-mill players but indeed players with profiles. Prominent players. Players who are well known. We saw Andy Roddick hang up the racquets at the US Open. We had Ivan Ljubicic call it game, set and match in Monte Carlo and more recently Juan Carlos Ferrero called it a day. As expected for all of them tears were the order of the day and who can blame them after so many years being at the forefront of the game. This was their life. I can’t remember another year where so many leading names decided it was time. All of them had hit the big 3 0. Ferrero said farewell at the tournament he part owns in Valencia and was praised by his contemporaries including the greatest Spaniard of them all, Rafael Nadal “It is a source of great pride for me to be here,” Nadal said. “You have done so much for the sport and marked the path for a generation of Spanish players. Saying goodbye to one of this country's greatest players is tough. I'm thankful for all the moments we shared together.” Nicknamed “Mosquito”, JC made it to two Grand Slam finals, Roland Garros and US Open and got to No.1 in the world and was awarded Spain’s highest sporting recognition by his namesake, the King, Juan Carlos. One of his greatest rival on-court was Lleyton Hewitt. They played a magnificent five set final at the season ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. “It’s been an absolute privilege to be here this week in Juan Carlos’ home town,” Hewitt said. “For me, it is a very special time, we grew up playing together and we have had some of our biggest highs and biggest lows against each other on the other side of the net. Obviously in Grand Slams, Davis Cups, and fighting for World No. 1 at different times. I would love to call you one of my great mates on tour, so thank you for all the memories, thanks mate.” It sort of leads to the question of who could be next and there are plenty of names on the honour board. Hewitt certainly being one of those after all he has endured with injuries and surgeries you got to wonder how much longer he can go on. But he says there is no thought of quitting because he still loves to play and adds that his body is feeling fine. However, one more injury and that would have to be it. No player wants to have a decision made for them when it comes to something like retirement but someone like David Nalbandian is struggling big time with injuries and it gets to a point where injuries just take their toll and it’s a case of enough is enough. The Argentine has a great game to watch when he is fully fit but over the last couple of years in particular he has not been able to play on a consistent level. His dream was to win a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas – Argentina has never won the coveted trophy but alas that dream will be remain just a dream for Nalbandian. He had said that if Argentina has made the Davis Cup final this year he would probably have made an announcement about his future. My guess is that he will still be making that announcement and it will be about searching for other things to do. For many players the decision to retire is also tough because they don’t know what to do with their lives. Ferrero at least has plenty on his plate, there is the tournament, his tennis academy and the beautiful boutique hotel he has near Valencia, appropriately named “Hotel Ferrero”. James Blake and Mardy Fish would likely be on the cusp. Blake has a young family now and Fish continues to be unnerved by the heart issues he has been having this year. Blake reached a career high of four in the world and was a finalist at the season-ending event in Shanghai as well but he is no longer a threat on the tour. It’s tough for Fish because much of his success came later in his career bas he was plagued with injuries. And then there is Nikolay Davydenko and another Spaniard Tommy Robredo who are also well and truly in the twilight of their respective careers and no doubt it won’t be long before we hear them making announcements regarding the big R. Interestingly with Bernard Tomic turning 20 in October, there are no teenagers in the top 100 at the moment. That may change down the track a bit it also reflects on an age shift. Players are becoming later bloomers and maybe staying around a bit longer. Case in point is David Ferrer who in the last twelve months has had the best year of his career. Still all are judged by tennis’ best known 30 something and that’s Roger Federer. How he keeps it going is beyond amazing and there is no sign of him slowing down. He did say he’s like to be in Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games. But if a player is not retiring because he doesn’t know what to do with his life then there is always the opportunity to switch to the doubles game. You only need to play half the court, don’t have to move much, just shout out “yours” if you can’t get to the ball, plus there are plenty of guys well into their 30’s and beyond – Bob and Mike Bryan, Radek Stepanek, Daniel Nestor, he’s turned 40, Nenad Zimonjic and Leander Paes who is about to be 40.