After Final Grand Slam Match, Tipsarevic Reflects On Importance Of Failing
After two hours and 45 minutes of play on Court 12 Monday afternoon, Denis Kudla hit a serve down the T, forcing an error from Janko Tipsarevic. The Serbian put his hand to his lips, then reached down to the baseline as if to say farewell.
Kudla defeated Tipsarevic 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), 6-1 in Tipsarevic’s final Grand Slam singles match. And after four more ATP Tour events (St. Petersburg, Chengdu, Shanghai and Moscow), the Serbian will play Davis Cup and officially retire from professional tennis.
“I was digging today. I spoke to my coach very briefly after the match. This was a sign that it’s time, because I was playing a good first set, not a great second set, but you could see that my energy level, even though I was practising decent for the past 10 days, was going up and down, up and down, up and down. Normally before, when I was playing my best tennis, my energy was constantly up and this was the factor which was overwhelming my opponents, kind of like a David Ferrer way of playing,” Tipsarevic said. “Losing in four [sets] because of fatigue is a sign that I don’t see myself doing this in 2020.”
Retirement has been on Tipsarevic’s mind since the first half of the season. The 35-year-old has undergone seven lower body surgeries, putting his body through the ringer. But he still tried to come back and see how deep he could dig. In Miami, Tipsarevic won his first tour-level match in 570 days.
“As a family we wanted some kind of stability. In the past five years it was quite terrible that we didn’t know what we were doing, because it’s always if you do this, it’s not even what I want or what my family wants, it’s what tennis as a sport needs. So it was always this mix. Am I playing? Am I doing surgeries? Am I recovering? Am I competing? And then surgery again. And obviously all of these ups and downs, no matter how strong I tried to stay, they were really affecting my mood,” Tipsarevic said. “[The first part is] my body. My body’s not allowing me to come to the level where it would make me happy to continue playing tennis. And I’m not even talking Top 10, I’m talking about potentially Top 30. If I don’t see myself that I am able to be Top 30, for me competing and playing tennis is not fun.”
Tipsarevic has also devoted a lot of time to his academy, which he is franchising in four different countries in 2020.
“I’ve been on this guilt trip for quite some time because if I devote too much time to the business side of this because setting all of this up took a lot of time… if I devote a lot of time towards that, I see that part growing and going in the right direction,” Tipsarevic said. “But then I’m not a tennis player. I’m completely something else, and then I put tennis on the third or fourth place in my schedule during the day. And if I devote myself to be a 100 per cent tennis player, this takes six to seven hours.”
The motto Tipsarevic is instilling at his academy and that he has also used during his career is ‘keep digging’. He did not have much left to prove after competing in the Nitto ATP Finals twice, in 2011 and 2012. But even as his body let him down, Tipsarevic battled back.
“When you read fairytales about a hidden treasure, there is normally obstacles. The hidden treasure is somewhere near the end of the book. Normally there is a sea monster and whatever, a hidden map and that’s what you need to overcome to reach it. My big belief is that our hopes and dreams are normally not on the surface,” Tipsarevic said. “If you really want something, you really need to dig. And you really need to dig deep, even when you don’t feel like digging. This is what kept me going and trying to come back. And even if I didn’t, I came back twice. Once Top 50, once 70, but I never regretted it.
“I would regret way more not trying to do it and five years after my first surgery saying, ‘Hey, I earned enough money, I’m going to buy some real estate and enjoy my life.’ But like this, I feel you grow tremendously as a person.”
Tipsarevic has won five tour-level matches this season, but he has not been able to crack the Top 250 of the ATP Rankings. Nevertheless, the former World No. 8 is happy that he pushed himself once again to at least give a comeback a shot.
“I think I really tried everything. A lot of the time in the past few years I had comments, ‘What the hell are you doing, doing all these surgeries and still trying to come back and still working and still practising?’ But I guess this is who I am. This is what made me have a decent tennis career,” Tipsarevic said. “I feel if I didn’t have that aspect of a fighter, I wouldn’t have reached what I have reached in my career. Right now it’s a bit emotional because it’s my last Grand Slam, it’s my favourite Grand Slam. But I’m at peace with it because I feel that it’s time.”
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has known Tipsarevic since he was nine or 10 years old.
“He was always a role model for all of the young players in Serbia and my generation because he was doing so well,” Djokovic said. “He was the best junior of the world and he was someone that had a very promising career in front of him in professional tennis, judging by his results in junior tennis and had a really good professional career, two Top 10 year-end finishes and also quarter-finals of Slams.”
At the same time, Djokovic knows as well as anyone that his good friend has struggled physically in recent years. It’s less than two years ago that he himself was dealing with an elbow injury.
“It's sad to see him leave, but at the same time, considering what he has been through with his body in the last three years, it's kind of understandable. He had a lot of surgeries and injuries. And he just didn't manage, unfortunately, to get back on that track where he was a Top 10 player,” Djokovic said. “I wish him obviously all the best.”
Tipsarevic owns 286 tour-level wins, four ATP Tour titles and more than $8 million in prize money. But the Serbian does not want to be remembered primarily by his results and on-court accomplishments.
“I want to be remembered as a guy who really gave everything he could, wasn’t able to come back to where he was and still am very happy about it. This sends a message to a lot of young and talented players who are very, very scared of failing because facing reality and giving everything you have, you might face a reality where you see that you’re not good enough. But obviously being Top 10 for two years is something very close and personal to me, something that I wanted all my life I think outside of winning a Slam, which I never did,” Tipsarevic said. “Failed is a big word in that, because everybody’s expecting this fairytale ending that there’s a guy with seven surgeries coming back to his glory days to the Top 10. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s way more important the failing part, because you become a winner in life. If you have this attitude you send this attitude not only to your other businesses, but your friends, families and kids, hopefully, which is eventually how you become a winner.”