Thomaz Bellucci Says Goodbye To Tennis: 'It’s A Beautiful Time Of Transition'

The Brazilian won four tour-level titles
February 22, 2023
Thomaz Bellucci reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 21 in 2010.
Fotojump/Rio Open
Thomaz Bellucci reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 21 in 2010. By Juan Diego Ramirez Carvajal

Editor's note: This article was translated from

Life after tennis is not something that worries Thomaz Bellucci, who played his last ATP Tour match on Wednesday at the Rio Open presented by Claro. However, the clarity he now feels over his future is in stark contrast to the concern he felt at 16 and 17 years old, when he was close to an early retirement from the professional game. A left-knee injury sidelined him for almost a year and he was close to never coming back.

Back then, when he was a mere blip on the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, it took him six months to recover from surgery, followed by a long period of uncertainty. He started to read books on economy and thought about dedicating his time to his studies.

“I was in a lot of doubt,” Bellucci recalled to “I didn’t know if the best thing was to continue in tennis. I wanted to have fun doing other things.”

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Any thoughts of another vocation clashed with two strong forces in his life: the love of a sport that he learned at the age of three, playing with his parents in Tiete, Sao Paulo; and the dream of becoming a professional tennis player. It was a dream that, incidentally, was born in the 90s as he watched his countryman Gustavo Kuerten, former World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

“When 'Guga' won Roland Garros in 1997, I was just a boy. I was nine years old,” Bellucci said. “When I saw him on television, I said, ‘If he can do it, as a Brazilian, I think someday I can be at the big tournaments too’. 'Guga' made me think that getting there, although it seemed very difficult, was more of a possibility. He has helped convince a lot of us Brazilians that you can dream despite all the difficulties.”

His love for tennis and the dream inspired by ‘Guga’ would be hard to let go of at 17 when he was considering a life away from the sport.

“I didn’t want to have regrets in the future. I had to try a little more,” Bellucci said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to recover and go back and try again, but if in two years I haven’t played well, I’ll retire.’ That’s what I did, and at 19 I was already among the Top 200. I made a good choice. That moment taught me perseverance and to always be strong.”

His decision laid the foundations for a brilliant career. In 2010, as World No. 21, he became the second-highest ranked Brazilian man ever, only behind his hero Kuerten. Bellucci reached eight ATP Tour finals, winning four of them, all on clay: Gstaad (2009, 2012), Santiago (2010), and Geneva (2015). He also amassed 200 tour-level wins, two of which came against Top-5 opponents: World No. 4 Andy Murray in Madrid in 2011, and No. 5 Kei Nishikori in Rio in 2017.

“The best spell of my career was between 2010 and 2011. I played better in the big tournaments,” Bellucci said.

His best result in the Grand Slams was a fourth-round appearance at Roland Garros in 2010. The lefty also was a semi-finalist at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Madrid in 2011. “At that time I was thinking less, I had fewer worries, I was playing freely and I didn’t have so much pressure. Afterwards I started to think a little more, to doubt myself,” Bellucci said.

However, giving up was never an option, and he never hesitated to ask for help at the most difficult times of his career.

<a href=''>Thomaz Bellucci</a> at the 2011 <a href=''>Mutua Madrid Open</a>, where he was a semi-finalist.
Thomaz Bellucci at the 2011 Mutua Madrid Open, where he was a semi-finalist. Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images

“I was always accompanied by psychologists who helped me improve my decision making on and off the court,” Bellucci said. “It wasn’t easy to find the balance between personal and professional in a sport like tennis. That’s why you see so many players with problems with depression, they’re not well even though they have money and results. To me, the main thing was looking after myself, being mentally healthy and being happy.”

He didn’t always manage it, though. “I often felt depressed. It happens to a lot of players because there is a lot of pressure and expectation,” Bellucci said. However, he always found the strength to overcome adversity and to face any criticism that came his way. “With time you realise that the most important thing is not what people think of you. There are people who won’t value you. The most important thing is not the approval of others, it’s being happy on court.”

His determination coloured his career as a tennis player. He gave his all to continue playing, but multiple injuries have gradually pulled him away from competition over the last three years. Two new issues early in 2023 confirmed that it was time for him to hang up his racket. The end of the road came on Wednesday, in front of his home fans, when he lost to Sebastian Baez in the first round of one of his favourite tournaments.

“It’s the right time,” Bellucci said, not without a hint of nostalgia in his voice, but also with the peace of mind of someone who is ending a chapter of their life having given their all. “I feel happy and a little bit sad too. Tennis was in my life for many years, it’s not easy to stop playing. But I’ve enjoyed myself so much, and my body is now feeling the years and the sacrifices I’ve made. It’s time to do something else, experience new things.”

Bellucci has no doubt that he wants to stay in the world of tennis, perhaps as a coach. “I want to try and pass on my experience, develop players, have a place here in Brazil to teach. I think I have a lot of things to show the kids,” Bellucci said. “It’s a beautiful time of transition, of change in my life.”

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