Best Of 2017: Player Retirements (Part 2)
ATPWorldTour.com looks back on the careers of the players who retired from professional tennis this year
Radek Stepanek (Retired: 14 November), career-high No. 8
As one door closes, another one opens. Just two weeks after announcing the end of his professional career in mid-November, Radek Stepanek joined Novak Djokovic’s team as a coach alongside Andre Agassi. During a 20-year playing career, Stepanek combined unorthodox groundstrokes and a penchant for rushing the net to lift five singles titles and 18 doubles crowns on the ATP World Tour. He only decided to stop for good, aged 38, when a back injury that required surgery on 22 March this year proved too hard to overcome. The Czech rose to a career-high No. 8 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 10 July 2006 and a career-high 4 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings on 12 November 2012. He completed 11 seasons in the Top 100 singles and doubles rankings. Stepanek, one of the sport’s hardest workers and more colourful characters, partnered Leander Paes to the 2012 Australian Open and 2013 US Open crowns. He would also join forces with Tomas Berdych to help the Czech Republic to the 2012 and 2013 Davis Cup crowns and at the 2016 Rio Olympics he teamed up with Lucie Hradecka to the mixed doubles bronze medal. “I’m very proud of my achievements and the whole team who helped me throughout my career, they definitely have their signature on that,” said Stepanek. “I think the [award] suitcase is packed. Obviously, there is a trophy missing for a singles Grand Slam title, which I wasn’t that close to. But I’ve done a lot in my career, and it’s something that I can be proud of.”
Paul-Henri Mathieu (Retired: 29 October), career-high No. 12
In tennis, you win or lose. You progress through the draw, or you head to the nearest airport. Paul-Henri Mathieu learned early on how to treat triumph and disaster just the same, regrouping as a 20-year-old from a 2002 Davis Cup fifth-set deciding rubber loss against Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. It took him up to five years to realise the enormity of the result. The Frenchman won four ATP World Tour titles – including back-to-back crowns in 2002. He beat seven Top 40 players – including Marat Safin, Gustavo Kuerten and Thomas Johansson – in Moscow and Lyon, and was later named the 2002 ATP Newcomer of the Year. Two further titles followed in 2007 at Casablanca (d. Montanes) and Gstaad (d. Seppi), and on 7 April 2008 he attained a career-high No. 12 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Injuries were ever-present – wrist, groin, knees (that required three surgeries) – throughout his 19-season pro career and in 2012-13 further complaints played out as his wife, Quiterie, successfully battled to overcome Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Mathieu kept fighting on and off the court, recording 10 Top 10 victories – including three over Davydenko. Allez, Paulo.
Benjamin Becker (Retired: 16 September), career-high No. 35
For Benjamin Becker a hip injury triggered a change of plans and in spring 2018 he will complete the final semester of his bachelor’s degree in management at Baylor University, where he is also the men’s team student volunteer coach. The 36-year-old is now giving back to an institution that he helped to win the 2004 NCCA national team championship title for the first time and also the NCCA singles title. The German, who overcame two elbow surgeries in 2011, rose to a career-high No. 35 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2014, eight years after cracking the Top 50 for the first time. He won his lone ATP World Tour title in June 2009 at the Ricoh Open as a qualifier, defeating two of the top four seeds en route to a final win over Raemon Sluiter. He also reached two other finals at 2007 Bangkok (l. to Tursunov) and on ‘s-Hertogenbosch grass in 2014 (l. to Bautista Agut). Among six Top 10 career wins, were two victories over former World No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko (2008 Wimbledon and 2010 Halle).
Marco Chiudinelli (Retired: 24 October), career-high No. 52
It was an emotional day for Marco Chiudinelli when he called time on his career in October at the Swiss Indoors Basel, scene of his best singles performance – a run to the 2009 semi-finals, when he beat Philipp Kohlschreiber, Michael Lammer and Richard Gasquet en route to losing to his childhood friend and some-time doubles partner Roger Federer. Shoulder and knee injuries, over a 10-year period, hindered his development, however, the Swiss rose to a career-high No. 52 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 22 February 2010 and won 10 ATP Challenger Tour singles titles during his career. He went 1-3 in ATP World Tour doubles finals, with his lone crown coming at the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad with Lammer. Chiudinelli, a member of the Swiss Davis Cup team that won the 2014 title, partnered Stan Wawrinka to a seven-hour and one-minute 24-22 fifth-set doubles rubber victory over Czech Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol in the 2013 first round.
Mariusz Fyrstenberg (Retired: 16 September), doubles career-high No. 6
As one half of the ‘Polish Power’, Mariusz Fyrstenberg called it quits after 17 years at the ATP Challenger Tour’s Pekao Szczecin Open in Poland, where he started his doubles career in 2001. In tandem with Marcin Matkowski, the duo captured 15 doubles crowns – including two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns at the 2008 and 2012 Mutua Madrid Opens. The pair also finished as runners up at the 2011 US Open (l. to Melzer/Petzschner) and qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals on five occasions, including a 2011 title match (l. to Mirnyi/Nestor). Fyrstenberg reached a career-high of No. 6 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings on 6 August 2012 and won 18 tour-level titles overall.
Note: Tommy Haas has not officially confirmed his retirement to the ATP World Tour. As such, he is not included in this retirement tribute series.