Best of 2018: Player Retirements (Part Two)
ATP Tour Season In Review: Player Retirements
Mikhail Youzhny (Retired: 21 September), career-high No. 8
The Russian finished his career one victory shy of 500 match wins, but it didn’t matter to Youzhny, who spent 13 straights seasons in the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings. As the son of a Soviet Army Colonel, his salute celebration at the end of his 499 match wins became his trademark. Arguably, the match that made him came in November 2002, when he rallied from two sets down to beat fellow 20-year-old Paul-Henri Mathieu in the fifth rubber to give Russia its first Davis Cup trophy.
Having won his first ATP Tour title earlier that year on Stuttgart clay, Youzhny grew in confidence winning a further nine trophies from 20 finals. He reached his first Grand Slam championship semi-final at the 2006 US Open (also 2010) and 18 months later rose to No. 8 in the ATP Rankings (on 28 January 2008). Youzhny also advanced to the quarter-finals of the three other major championships. Read & Watch Tribute
Florian Mayer (Retired: 27 August), career-high No. 18
With long backswings, the German’s style of play was unorthodox but effective. The 2004 ATP Newcomer of the Year and a two-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist rose to a career-high No. 18 in the ATP Rankings on 6 June 2011. Last month, Mayer told ATPWorldTour.com, “Having gone 0-4 in my first four finals, I began to question whether I was good enough to win a coveted ATP title. I needed to wait until 2011 in Bucharest to lift a trophy, but my final victory over Alexander Zverev in 2016 [at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle] will be the one I always remember as it was on my comeback from injuries, after almost two years on the sidelines.”
In 2009, Mayer fell as low as No. 450 in the ATP Rankings, but finished the year at No. 61. He recorded 12 Top 10 wins during his career and went 2-5 in ATP Tour finals. The German also won 14 titles from 25 finals on the ATP Challenger Tour.
Gilles Muller (Retired: 27 August), career-high No. 21
In order to succeed as a tennis player, Muller had to leave his native Luxembourg. He did so of his own violation (his parents did not push him) and he would later finish 2001 as the year-end junior World No. 1. Thereafter the serve-volleyer forged a career that was centred on a strong work ethic, which included quarter-final runs at the 2008 US Open (as a qualifier) and 2017 Wimbledon (including a 15-13 fifth set win over Rafael Nadal in the fourth round).
Having reached his first ATP Tour final in July 2004 at the Citi Open (l. to Hewitt), Muller needed to wait 13 seasons until he snapped a five-final losing streak. In an emotional 2017 Sydney International final, with his family courtside, 34-year-old Muller beat Daniel Evans to lift the trophy and later, in June, he captured his second crown at the Libema Open (d. Karlovic). Read & Watch Tribute
Julien Benneteau (Retired: 26 October), career-high No. 25
The softly spoken Frenchman was a throwback to a bygone era, who played as he dressed – with great style and flair – to rise to a career-high No. 25 in the ATP Rankings (17 November 2014). His 0-10 record in ATP Tour finals is an unwanted Open Era record, with his closest shot coming at Kuala Lumpur in 2013 when he failed to convert a match point against Joao Sousa. But Benneteau troubled all-time greats, with victories over Roger Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic among 18 Top 10 wins on all surfaces.
His 12 doubles crowns from 21 finals included ended France’s 30-year title wait at 2014 Roland Garros (w/Roger-Vasselin) and two crowns at ATP Masters 1000s, at the 2009 Rolex Shanghai Masters (w/Tsonga) and the 2013 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (w/Zimonjic). The former doubles World No. 5 also secured the bronze medal for France with Richard Gasquet at the 2012 London Olympics at Wimbledon and helped his nation win the 2017 Davis Cup crown. Benneteau will now focus on his role as France’s Fed Cup captain. Read & Watch Tribute
Max Mirnyi (Retired: 29 November), career-high doubles No. 1
Nicknamed “The Beast”, Mirnyi had everything to succeed as an athlete: a strong work ethic and great physical attributes. Mirnyi climbed to the top of the ATP Doubles Rankings for the first time on 9 June 2003, and he would spend 57 weeks atop the doubles mountain, good enough for 15th all-time. The Belarusian won 52 tour-level doubles titles (52-46), and Mirnyi recently finished his 20th consecutive doubles campaign inside the Top 100.
As a singles player, he ascended as high as No. 18 in the ATP Rankings, and won 244 tour-level matches, including 16 victories against Top 10 opponents. He also captured the 2003 ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament crown. The six-time men’s doubles Grand Slam winner and 2012 mixed doubles Olympic gold medallist (w/Victoria Azarenka) qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals 10 times, lifting the trophy in 2006 with Jonas Bjorkman and in 2011 with Daniel Nestor. ‘The Beast’ also captured 16 Masters 1000 doubles titles, including the 2003 Miami crown with Roger Federer. Read & Watch Tribute