Gonzalez hangs up his rackets
Originally published on: 22/03/12 11:58
Fernando Gonzalez ended his tennis career in anticlimactic fashion with a double fault in his first round match in Miami yesterday. It was the Frenchman Mahut who finished off the 31-year-old, though Gonzalez gave him a tough ride, obviously keen to extend his career by just one more game.
After losing the first set 7-5 and finding himself on the brink of retirement, Gonzalez fought back to take the second 6-4. It was anyone’s game in the deciding set, the Chilean saving two match points to bring it to 5-5 and then taking it to a tie-break. Unfortunately for the tour veteran, Mahut was ruthless, getting to 6-3 before Gonzalez stumbled with a double fault and handed his opponent the match.
Despite having slipped into the shadows of the ATP tour in the last couple of years, in large part thanks to hip surgery in 2010, it was only two years ago that the current world No.221 was ranked inside the top 10. A natural clay-court player, the personable Chilean has 11 career titles, the majority of them having come on the slower surface.
He broke into the top 100 for the first time in 2002, making an incredible leap from 140 to 89 in the space of a fortnight. After making it into the top 50 later that year, it would be another eight years before Gonzalez found himself ranked any lower than No.35
The Santiagan reached a career high of No.5 in 2007, the same year that he made it to the Australian Open finals. A year later he was bestowed the honour of carrying his country’s flag at the Olympics in Beijing where he came away with a silver medal after falling in the final to a rising Rafael Nadal.
Known for his grounded nature and humility, and an idol in Chile over his 13-year professional career, Gonzalez succeeded in large part thanks to his work ethic: “Each time I walk on the court for practice, I try to improve something,” Gonzalez told Deuce back in 2010. “One has to work, and my style demands that I have good fitness.”
He chose to retire when he found he was missing the energy and motivation required to train and travel for so much of the year. His fellow players on the tour paid tribute to him this week, describing his lethal forehand, legendary on the tour, as “scary.” Mike Bryan added: “If we floated a volley we had to duck!”