Best Of 2016: Player Retirements
Lleyton Hewitt (Retired: 21 January)
Lleyton Hewitt had already completed his final lap around the ATP World Tour in 2015, capped by a second-round finish at the Citi Open in Washington, but the Aussie legend had one last goodbye reserved for his home fans at the Australian Open. The former World No. 1 – and youngest to ever ascend to the top spot at age 20 – drew the curtain on his storied career in his 20th successive trip to Melbourne Park, defeating James Duckworth in his opener, before falling to eighth seed David Ferrer.
As expected, the 34-year-old Hewitt left it all out on the court, but Ferrer held off the Aussie’s challenge to claim victory in two hours and 32 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Hewitt was watched from his box by his family, Tony Roche and Thanasi Kokkinakis among others.
“I came out and gave everything I had like always," said Hewitt following the match. "I left nothing in the locker room. That's something I can always be proud of. My whole career I've always given 100 per cent… It’s a weird emotion; I don't think it will fully set in for a couple of days' time. As I've always said, I'm such a competitor, I try and push myself all the time to get the most out of myself. Obviously it was in the back of my mind coming into every match this week, but I have had a fantastic last month.”
Hewitt spent 80 weeks at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and capped his career with 30 tour-level titles. His biggest crowns came at the 2001 US Open, 2002 Wimbledon Championships, year-end Tennis Masters Cup from 2001-02, and at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells, where he lifted the trophy in consecutive years from 2002-03. The two-time year-end No. 1 in 2001-02, the Adelaide native is also the third-youngest player to win an ATP World Tour title, having prevailed in his hometown at 16 years, 11 months.
Eric Butorac (Retired: 1 September)
With family and friends surrounding Court 9 at the US Open, Eric Butorac bade farewell to the doubles circuit. The affable former ATP Player Council president played his last professional match alongside good friend Scott Lipsky, falling to Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram 6-3, 6-4.
The 35-year-old father of two, who became USTA Director of Professional Tennis Operations and Player Relations in early October, is an 18-time doubles champion on the ATP World Tour. He won at least one title in each of the past 10 seasons, including five with Jean-Julien Rojer and three each with Klaasen, Lipsky and Jamie Murray. Butorac most recently lifted the trophy at the Millennium Estoril Open with Lipsky in April, his third title at the ATP World Tour 250 event.
“I never expected to have a career like this,” added Butorac, whose best Grand Slam result came in the 2014 Australian Open, finishing runner-up alongside Klaasen. “I moved to France to play money tournaments, then stumbled into Futures and Challengers and later moved my way up. It was a surprise to be out there doing it. To look back and say I did it for 13 years is a strange feeling, but also quite rewarding. I feel accomplished, I worked really hard and got to see the world and meet great people. It was a great experience.”
The former Division III national champion at Gustavus Adolphus College said his biggest contributions to tennis took place away from the doubles court. Butorac served on the ATP Player Council for eight years, including two as president.
“Off the court, being a part of the Player Council was something really special for me. It was something I stumbled into and someone nominated me for it. I took it very seriously, spending eight years on the council and doing two as president. That was something I'm very proud of. As much as anything I achieved on the court, for the good of the sport I was able to do a lot more off it.”
Michael Berrer (Retired: 18 December)
Another former ATP Player Council member bade farewell in 2016, as Michael Berrer played his last match at the inaugural European Open in Antwerp, before officially retiring in December. Nearly two years after initially deciding to announce his retirement, the German pressed pause on his departure following a successful 2015 campaign that saw him notch the biggest win of his career over World No. 3 Rafael Nadal in Doha. It was his first victory over a Top 5 opponent in 14 tries.
A genuine and charismatic personality, Berrer was a dogged competitor between the lines, exuding passion and energy that made him an instant fan favourite. He left his mark on the court in ascending to a career-high World No. 42 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, reaching consecutive ATP World Tour finals on the indoor hard courts of Zagreb in 2010 and 2011, as well as posting a 235-152 record on the ATP Challenger Tour, including 11 titles. Off the court, he took part in the ATP’s scholarship program, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Phoenix.
“I was still able to do some damage on tour and end it on my terms,” Berrer told ATPWorldTour.com. “It's a new situation for me now, but I feel pretty good about it now. Being on tour was something I always enjoyed. I liked to spend time with the ATP employees and the players. It was always a good time and never a stressful one. There are many moments I will never forget. My victory over Rafael Nadal (in Doha) was special and playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon in 2008 too. Those were moments that I always enjoyed. Playing in the United States too, especially reaching the third round in Indian Wells. The crowd gives you a great reception there and they really appreciate athletes.”
Other Farewells: Rui Machado, Andreas Beck, Jesse Huta Galung, Julian Reister
After 14 years on tour, one of the best players in the history of Portuguese tennis hung up his racquet in mid-June. Rui Machado, who attained a career-high No. 59 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in October 2011, decided it was time to retire.
“What made me decide to retire was having many injuries in recent months that did not let me practise and compete the way I’m used to,” said the 32-year-old Machado. “I really felt that my body was asking for some rest.”
After suffering wrist and knee injuries that largely kept him off the tour in 2006 and 2007, Machado was able to return and produced the best results of his career. He became a dominant figure in clay-court events on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning all eight of his titles on the surface from 2009-11. Fittingly, his best result on the ATP World Tour came at home, when he reached the quarter-finals of 250 event in Estoril in May 2010.
Andreas Beck, Jesse Huta Galung and Julian Reister all said goodbye towards the end of the season, with Germans Beck and Reister hanging up their racquets in October and Huta Galung in December. Former World No. 33 Beck reached his lone ATP World Tour final on the clay of Gstaad in 2009 (l. to Bellucci), with his best Masters 1000 result coming in Monte-Carlo earlier that year. He earned his lone Top 10 win over seventh-ranked Gilles Simon in the second round, en route to the quarter-finals. Beck also claimed five ATP Challenger Tour titles and amassed a 201-140 win-loss record on the circuit.
Huta Galung, meanwhile, achieved a career-high No. 91 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in February 2014. The Dutchman’s biggest victories came over former Top 10 players Ivan Ljubicic (Rotterdam 2012) and Janko Tipsarevic (Johannesburg 2011). He captured 10 titles on the ATP Challenger Tour in total.
Hamburg native Reister ascended to a peak position of World No. 83 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in November 2013. A winner of five ATP Challenger Tour titles, he also enjoyed success at the tour-level, reaching the third round at Roland Garros in 2010, before falling to Roger Federer. As an unseeded wild card, the German stunned World No. 16 Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-3 in Hamburg in 2012.