Montañés: "I Look Back And It's Incredible"
The Catalan retires from professional tennis at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
There could be no better setting to bring the curtain down on an illustrious career. At home, in front of many of those who have been with him in almost 20 years as a professional, Albert Montanes called time on his professional career at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Wednesday.
The 36-year-old Catalan bowed out in a second-round defeat to Feliciano Lopez, ending his career with six ATP World Tour titles, a career-high of No. 22 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and 542 matches in his legs.
Montanes bid farewell to the tour in his 35th match at a tournament where he made his debut 16 years ago, and where he has played every year since 2001, except in 2007. As he received an emotional reception on Pista Rafa Nadal, Montanes was joined on court by ATP Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode, who congratulated Montanes on his incredible career.
"It's a very special moment," said Montanes. "I wanted to finish my career in a special way. It couldn't have been anywhere else. You, the public, have been essential in my career. I feel really proud to have had a very long career."
Lopez, the man responsible for ending Montanes' career, said, "These are difficult matches to play, there are lots of feelings. I've known 'Monti' since we were 13. It's difficult to play a person you know so well, knowing it could be his last match."
Later, in press, Montanes commented, "Right now it's a strange feeling. I've finished the match knowing I'm not going to play again. Maybe in a few days it will sink in. I can't believe it, but everything has to come to an end, and like I said on court, this was the right place and moment to do it. Now a new chapter in my life starts and I hope to be able to enjoy it as much as the one before."
Montanes leaves the tour with a standout clay-court record. "I've always seen myself as a clay-court player," he acknowledged. Indeed, he has accumulated more than 200 victories on the dirt, 212 in total, the 18th-best record among Spanish players on clay. Among his active countrymen, he is only bettered by Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo.
"I've been lucky enough to play many years at the top, giving me the opportunity to earn so many victories," said Montanes. “I'm happy with this statistic, but it's the result of many matches and many years on tour, with very good results on clay."
He enjoyed his finest moments on the dirt. From his first ATP World Tour victory in Estoril in 2001 against Michael Chang, to every one of his six ATP World Tour crowns. The first in Amersfoort in 2008, before victories in Estoril 2009, Bucharest 2009, Estoril 2010, Stuttgart 2010 and Nice 2013.
He excelled on Portuguese clay in particular. In Estoril in 2010, he beat then World No. 1 Roger Federer in the semi-finals at a time when Nadal was the only Spaniard to have beaten the Swiss on clay. "I will always remember that win over Federer," he said. "And then I was able to win the tournament, which made it even more special.
"I look back, and it's incredible," continued Montanes. When the right-hander reflects on his career, he remembers "the huge sacrifices, the years of travelling, with many good sides and others not so good." He would do it all again, he says. "Everything I take with me is positive. I feel loved by my fellow players and I appreciate that."