BEST OF 2013
Player Farewells In 2013 - Part One
by Josh Meiseles|
There were a number of players who retired from professional tennis in 2013. In Part One, we recall their career highlights, listed below according to their career-high position in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
No. 3 – David Nalbandian (Retired: 1 October)
Boasting an exceptional shotmaking arsenal, including one of the most sublime backhands of his generation, David Nalbandian was a fixture in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for a large portion of the last decade.
An 11-time champion on the ATP World Tour, the tenacious Argentine bade farewell in early October after 13 years. The 31 year old finished year-end Top 10 in five straight years from 2003 to 2007 and climbed to a career-high ranking of three in 2006. A semi-finalist at all four majors, Nalbandian reached his lone Grand Slam final at his first grass court tournament, the 2002 Wimbledon Championships, where he would succumb to Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets.
Nalbandian struggled to maintain a consistent presence on the ATP World Tour since ascending to the pinnacle of the game in the mid-2000s, in large part due to persistent hip issues. After months of rehab following a double operation on his shoulder and hip in May, the Cordoba native decided to call it quits. “I can play matches, but my shoulder won't let me continue my career. It’s tough because I have to announce my retirement from the sport that gave me so much. I'm very grateful.”
A feisty and dogged warrior, Nalbandian wielded a seemingly effortless backhand and had the confidence to rip winners from all angles on the court. His success against Roger Federer towards the beginning of their rivalry is perhaps his most revered accomplishment. He was never intimidated, defeating Federer for the 1998 US Open boys crown and racing out to a 5-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head advantage. His five-set victory over Federer in the final of the 2005 Tennis Masters Cup gave him his most prestigious title. Two years later, the Argentine would win back-to-back ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns in Madrid and Paris, toppling both Federer and Nadal at each event.
Three times a Davis Cup finalist (2004, 2008, 2011), Nalbandian put the team competition on a pedestal. “It's the event that I felt was different from the others,” he reminisced. “The pressure, the support of the people. It's something unique. It's a shame [Argentina] couldn't win it, but it's the way it was.”
Watch Nalbandian Uncovered Feature
No. 9 – Nicolas Massu (Retired: 27 September)
Much like Nalbandian, Nicolas Massu was devoted to competing for his country and took great pride in becoming the only man in history to win Olympic gold in both singles and doubles at the same summer games. The Olympic Tennis Centre in Athens, Greece was the setting for the historic achievement as a weeping Massu collapsed to the court, clutching his head in disbelief, as Mardy Fish sent a backhand return wide to hand him the 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory. Massu had the opportunity to compete in the golden era of Chilean tennis, alongside fellow greats Marcelo Rios and Fernando Gonzalez. He would win the doubles title with Gonzalez, earning the only gold medals in Chilean Olympic history.
“My Olympic medals are the greatest things this sport has given me,” Massu said during his retirement press conference. “It's something I’m very proud to be able to share with my kids and tell them I'm in my country’s history.
“With my retirement we close two incredible decades for our sport. Marcelo Rios, Fernando Gonzalez and I contributed to put Chile's name at the top. My country can be sure that I hit each ball with all my soul and I tried to represent Chile to the fullest. I will miss the adrenaline of the Davis Cup, the ‘chi, chi, chi,’ and the ‘Let’s go Nico!’ chants.”
A six-time champion on the ATP World Tour, Massu accrued 162 match wins on clay, but it was on hard courts where he boasts his most impressive accomplishments. In addition to his double gold in Athens, Massu defeated a pair of former World No. 1’s in Gustavo Kuerten and Andy Roddick en route to the Madrid Masters final, in 2003, and his best Grand Slam result came in reaching the Round of 16 at the US Open in 2005.
No. 19 – Xavier Malisse (Retired: 2 October)
Less than a week removed from Nalbandian and Massu’s retirements, Xavier Malisse competed in his final tournament at the Mons Challenger in his native Belgium. Affectionately referred to as the ‘X-Man’, Malisse and his trademark ponytail were a fixture on the ATP World Tour since 1998. Having enjoyed most of his success on faster surfaces, the Belgian generated seemingly effortless power from both wings. A Florida resident, Malisse reached the final in Delray Beach five times, hoisting the trophy in 2005 and 2007. He would add a third ATP World Tour crown at the Aircel Chennai Open, also in 2007.
Malisse’s most impressive exploits occurred on the Grand Slam level. Seeded 27th at the 2002 Wimbledon Championships, he came within one set from reaching the final, falling in five to Nalbandian in what would be his lone major semi. He would advance to the fourth round at the All England Club three more times and even triumphed on the clay of Roland Garros, partnering with Olivier Rochus to capture the 2004 doubles title. He would amass eight additional doubles crowns since his Paris victory, also defeating the world-class Swiss duo of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka in the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells just two years ago.
“I liked the pressure of the game but I'm also relieved,” Malisse said following his first-round defeat in Mons. “Now I'm going to relax with my family and friends. It is hard to leave but we have to stop one day.”
No. 50 – Ricardo Mello (Retired: 11 February)
A former World No. 50 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Ricardo Mello hung up his racquet on home soil, at the Brasil Open. At the time of his retirement the 32 year old was one of just five active players to have accumulated 15 titles on the ATP Challenger Tour. Like Malisse, the Brazilian’s maiden ATP World Tour crown came in Delray Beach. As an unseeded player in 2004, Mello stunned top seeds and home favourites Mardy Fish and Vincent Spadea as well as former World No. 7 Mario Ancic to hoist his lone tour-level trophy. Mello’s only Top 20 conquest came at the 2004 US Open, also the site of the his best Grand Slam result. He reached the third round as a qualifier, upsetting No. 17 seed Juan Ignacio Chela in five sets to open the tournament.