De Voest Retires "On My Own Terms"
Rik de Voest announces his retirement from tennis to spend more time with his family.
Rik de Voest saw an opening and he went for it. 46 shots into his third break point, with his career hanging in the balance, he grabbed the initiative, ripping a forehand down the line; a shot that would lead to an ecstatic roar and ferocious fist pump.
Needing a break of serve to stave off retirement, down 4-6, 4-5 in a first-round meeting with Jason Jung at this week’s Vancouver Challenger, De Voest did what he had been doing for the past 16 years: grinding to the end. With a career point already denied, the South African would pull even, thwarting Jung’s efforts to serve out the match. He would capture the second set and eventually, after two hours and 31 minutes, secure the final match win of his career in valiant fashion.
Three days later, following a three-set loss to Thanasi Kokkinakis, the 34 year old would bid farewell to the sport he calls his “passion,” in front of a packed Stadium Court at the Hollyburn Country Club in Vancouver, Canada.
Speaking at his house in Vancouver, De Voest told ATPWorldTour.com, “It had been a decision I thought about for a while. I knew it was coming and now that it’s here and done, I’ve had some time to accept it. I’ve been playing on tour (for a long time) and I see the game is changing and evolving and becoming more physical.
“I was struggling to keep up with the demands of a full schedule, combined with the fact that my wife and I had our first child, a little boy in March, and I just wanted to not be travelling as much. I didn’t want to be that guy on court that everyone is saying, ‘Why is he still playing?’. It ended up being here in Vancouver where I met my wife and I decided this would be a good spot to call it a day.
“I went out on my terms, playing high quality tennis. For me it was very good to know that I can still compete against these younger, stronger, fitter players who are playing well. Thanasi’s been doing really well lately. It was more of a celebration and enjoyment of a good career.”
Born in Milan, Italy, De Voest moved to Pretoria, South Africa at the age of one before eventually settling down in Vancouver. He enjoyed the majority of his success on the doubles circuit, amassing a record 37 ATP Challenger Tour titles and a pair of ATP World Tour crowns. The right-hander won titles with Ashley Fisher at the 2007 China Open and alongside Dmitry Tursunov in Dubai in 2009.
His accomplishments on the singles court should not be overlooked either. A strong tactician with a serve-and-volley mindset, De Voest considers himself an all-around player.
“The singles aspect of the game was more of a challenge for me. I enjoyed that on-court challenge of working out opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and how to beat them. That’s what I’ve thrived on.”
De Voest topped at a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 110 in August 2006, after winning in Vancouver and qualifying for his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati (l. to Nalbandian). He compiled a 212-183 singles record on the ATP Challenger Tour, triumphing in six of 14 finals reached.
De Voest went toe-to-toe with the very best on the ATP World Tour as well, competing against the likes of Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian, Marat Safin, Andy Murray and Ivan Ljubicic.
“I’ve enjoyed playing the Challengers all over the world. I’ve been one of the more traveled players and with a longer career, I think I’ve racked up a fair amount of miles. Living out of a suitcase and going from hotel room to hotel room gets a little monotonous at times, but I just love competing and putting in the work and seeing the results. I just love to play tennis.”
When asked what he would identify as his greatest achievement, De Voest did not hesitate.
“It was always a childhood dream to play at Wimbledon. When I realised that, it was very special. The other thing is representing my country in Davis Cup. It’s one of the highlights for any athlete, to represent your country in whatever sporting discipline you do. To do that for such a long time and then be awarded the Davis Cup Commitment Award earlier this year and become just the fourth South African to ever do that, I was honoured to be in that category of players.”
De Voest, who is in the process of getting his real estate license in Vancouver, says tennis will always be an integral part of his life and he appreciates everything it has given him.
“My mother in law is a successful realtor here. I’ve found there are a few similarities in the two career paths, in being your own boss and the work you put in and get out, and not being behind a desk so much.
“Tennis will definitely still be a big part of who I am and what I’ve done and accomplished. Here in Vancouver, I’m assisting with Tennis B.C. and Tennis Canada’s high-performance program for their younger players and if I can help out there in some capacity, I’m open to new opportunities as they come.”