I was reading a newspaper column that questioned why two of the world’s greatest cricketers were not persuaded into retirement at an earlier time. The suggestion was that Australian cricketer Ricky Ponting, who...
I was reading a newspaper column that questioned why two of the world’s greatest cricketers were not persuaded into retirement at an earlier time. The suggestion was that Australian cricketer Ricky Ponting, who captained the national side for seven years with great distinction, should not have been selected to play in the national team once he left the captaincy because his form was doing nothing for his status. The other cricketer mentioned was the man nicknamed “The Little Master”, India’s Sachin Tendulkar, who continues to play. The person who wrote the piece was in full admiration for both these athletes but made the point that their diminished level of play and their lower standard of cricket resulted in their averages taking a dive. The writer said if these guys had not continued to be selected to their respective teams even though form was not quite there, they more than likely would hung up their cricket bats sooner. As a result they would have been ranked higher (with the figures and stats) than they are now. The writer wanted to see them placed on a much higher pedestal. Well it got me to thinking about tennis players. Sure the situation is a bit different because tennis is an individual sport and cricket is a team sport but when should a tennis player retire? What do you think? If a tennis player has seen a slide in results or has been off injured for a bit but starts a comeback, let’s says before a tie in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas or the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, should they be selected for the teams? Look at someone like Lleyton Hewitt. Should he be selected for Davis Cup by BNP Paribas because the tennis is not there as it once was? You cannot deny for one minute his love of Davis Cup and for the most part he is selected because quite possibly there is no one else to put in for one of the two singles spots. Beating some guy from Chinese Taipei is nothing to be enamoured with. Losing pretty much everything against Germany last year in Davis Cup, playing opposition that he would have had no trouble with a few years ago is a more realistic discussion. So when do you draw the line and say it is time for the younger ones to be selected and given a chance? Andy Roddick and Juan Carlos Ferrero made the decision not to be available for Davis Cup because injuries had come in the way and that also helped them to make the final decision that they were not able to contribute to their careers on the regular tour as well. Roger Federer is a special case. Even though he had a dive in his form a couple of years ago, he was still challenging for the top prizes and was only just missing out. Many fans were of the opinion that he should have retired then, but really there was no legitimate reason for such thoughts. David Nalbandian could be another case in point. When is it time for him to call it quits? Being selected to play in a national team allows the player to feel they have still got it. I have even heard suggestions that Venus Williams should consider retiring. Certainly you can understand that a player wants to go out on their own terms but what happened to the thought of going out on top? And can’t such players be considered selfish in that they don’t want to, or just can’t make themselves, come to terms that they need to step aside? Epitomising such a situation is the great Esther Vergeer who I had the pleasure of interviewing last year. The 31-year-old Dutch star, who celebrated ten years without a defeat on the international wheelchair tennis circuit on 30 January, ended her career at the very, very top of the game. She won 169 titles and ends her career on a winning streak of 470 matches - her last defeat was to Australian Daniela di Toro in Sydney on 30 January 2003. Now that’s what you call going out in style. Do you think a player who continues to play when the results are not there only denigrates the results that took them to the top of the sport? A fan will more than likely relinquish some support for that player as their outstanding record becomes tarnished. So what are your thoughts about the time a player should retire? In a regular job (depending on the country you are in) you are obliged to retire at 60 or 65. Obviously this is not the same situation in tennis, but is there merit in something like that beings looked at? After all there are so many younger players also trying to make a breakthrough and maybe they should be given a chance however, on the other hand the younger ones should be good enough to cut through the elite. I get back to my original question in trying to determine if a player should be selected to national teams for the sake of it which in due course steers them to staying on longer than their use by date.