Best Of 2015: Player Retirements, Part One
ATPWorldTour.com recalls the career highlights of three Americans in part one of our look at the players who retired from professional tennis in 2015.
Mardy Fish (Retired: 2 September)
Mardy Fish returned to the court in 2015, and the sport was grateful. There was no fairytale end, but the American retired on his terms. From his diagnosis of severe cardiac arrhythmia in March 2012, to panic attacks that at its worst point left him feeling unable to be compete, travel or leave his house, Fish endured a private battle that affects millions worldwide.
A raw talent, Fish combined a big serve and smooth backhand to reach a career-high No. 7 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 15 August 2011, when aged 29 he discovered the drive and discipline that was needed to be a consistent player. He made one appearance at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in 2011, the year he reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals - his third last eight appearance at a Grand Slam. But his late-career surge was derailed and he was forced to step away from the sport.
Fish won six titles from 20 finals, including four runner-up finishes at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments and ended with a 302-219 singles record. His memories of leading Nicolas Massu by two sets to love, with a break in the fourth set, only to lose the 2004 Athens Olympics gold medal match remain vivid. Aged 33, Fish left the Louis Armstrong Stadium in tears, to a standing ovation, after his final match against Feliciano Lopez in the US Open second round. "I've got a lot of great memories," said Fish, after his final match. "I've got a lot of good wins out here. I have made a lot of really good friendships with almost everyone out here. I'll miss that."
Robby Ginepri (Retired: 27 August)
Robby Ginepri called it a career shortly before the US Open draw ceremony. Ten years earlier, ranked No. 45 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Ginepri entered the hard-court major playing the best tennis of his career. Having won 14 of his past 17 matches, including three Top 10 scalps, he won three straight five-setters before an epic semi-final loss to Andre Agassi. It was to be the baseliner's career highlight in a year when he won a career-best 37 matches, reached the semi-final at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Cincinnati, and also rose to a career-high No. 15 on 26 December 2005.
Injuries and a lack of consistency hindered Ginepri, who suffered a freak mountain bike accident in October 2010 - involving a squirrel - and he later underwent two elbow surgeries. He won three ATP World Tour titles at 2003 Newport, and 2005, '09 Indianapolis. “Although every athlete knows this day will eventually come, it doesn't make the decision to retire any easier,” said Ginepri. “To play tennis as a profession and compete on the biggest stages around the world is a privilege, and I will forever be grateful to have had the opportunity.”
Michael Russell (Retired: 8 September)
Throughout his 17-year pro career, Houston-based Michael Russell was a dedicated and diligent worker. An agile performer with bulging biceps, long before Ginepri became the first player to bare his pecks at Wimbledon in 2003, Russell earned the nickname “Iron Mike” for his durability and longevity, predicated on a dedicated fitness regimen. He underwent three knee surgeries, broke his arm and suffered rotator cuff tears in his shoulder during his career.
The 5'8" Russell reached a career-high No. 60 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 13 August 2007, compiled a 15-6 record in ATP Challenger Tour finals and finished runner-up with Xavier Malisse in the 2012 Atlanta doubles final. He was also the first player to qualify into each of the Grand Slam championships in succession (2000 Wimbledon and U.S. Open, 2001 Australian Open and Roland Garros). Arguably his finest performance came in defeat. As a No. 120-ranked qualifier at 2001 Roland Garros, he led then World No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten by two-sets-to-love and 5-3 in the third set, but could not convert a match point opportunity in their fourth-round clash. It proved to be the impetus for his whole career.
Coming tomorrow...ATPWorldTour.com looks back at the careers of Robin Soderling, Jarkko Nieminen, Ryan Sweeting and Michael Lammer.