surprising retirement in tennis martina hingis

5 of the Most Shocking Retirements in Tennis

Maria Sharapova recently announces her retirement from tennis. And she made it clear: she’s retiring, not quitting.

Tennis fans and even sceptics quite expect this retirement announcement.

These five names, however, took the tennis world by surprise with their shocking – almost controversial – way of announcing retirement and the reasons behind them.

#5 – Steffi Graf

No one suspected that she would be announcing her retirement in August 1999. She was still in her career prime. She was only 30 years old and ranked No. 3 then. 

 Thus, Graf’s tennis journey is a story of what could have been if she chose to continue playing. She left the game as the greatest women’s player during her time.

A perfectionist she was on the court, Graf explained that she has already accomplished everything in tennis. While she was battling injuries, then, the tennis player also said that she was “no longer having fun.”

A young, vibrant Martina Hingis was also on the rise, doing everything she can to overcome challenges along the way, including Graf. And, the stabbing incident between her fan and Monica Seles also contributed to her sentiment.

#4 – Marion Bartoli

Bartoli was also progressing mightily when suddenly announced her retirement following a Wimbledon win in 2013. She reached a career-high at No. 7.

For her, her body was no longer cooperating with injuries that made continuing difficult. Bartoli said, “I really felt I gave all the energy I have left in my body, …but now my body just can’t cope with everything.”

Bartoli was 28 when she retired.

#3 – Martina Hingis

Hingis was a force to reckon with in women’s tennis but still chose to retire at only 22 years old. 

She struggled with injuries. Although in a BBC report, Hingis mentioned that she could not be “content with less” after being four years at No. 1 ranking. 

Hingis was suffering from ankle injuries. Part of her retirement was, nevertheless, because of the rise of equally competitive tennis players.

She had a comeback in 2006 but retired the next year again after testing positive for cocaine. She faced a two-year ban, though, Hingis maintained she was innocent.

#2 – Justine Henin

Henin retired from playing tennis when she was still ranked No. 1 in May 2008. She was only 25 years old. She even requested her name’s removal from the ranking immediately.

She said that she felt no sadness in leaving tennis behind, believing that she already gave her all for twenty years. She focused on her tennis school and charity works.

Like Hingis, she staged a comeback in 2010 but failed to recapture her fame and glory before her first retirement.

#1 – Bjorn Borg

Borg is the tennis superstar that fans never wanted to see retiring, but he did. The years 1982 to 1984 were chaotic. He announced his retirement in January 1983 at only 26 years old. Even John McEnroe persuaded him to continue playing but was unsuccessful.

He was known for his magnificent tennis playing style as well as his commercial appeal—such a waste of talent for undeniably the greatest player in tennis history.

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6 Oldest Tennis Players While Still Active

Tennis players start young—as young as six years old.

Some players, however, chose to play while they can. Did you know that the oldest tennis player is aged 71 years old? She is Gail Falkenberg, who still plays at lower level pro tennis matches.

It looks like Roger Federer is heading towards this path too.

Nonetheless, here are the oldest tennis players while still active. 

1) Martina Navratilova (49 years)

Navratilova played until she was 49 years old before retiring in 2006. She became a pro in 1975. 

She was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame because of her achievements. She has won 167 singles titles, 177 doubles title, and a total of 2,189 matches.

2) Younes El Aynaoui (47 years)

El Aynaoui played tennis until he was 47 years old. He started playing as a professional in 1990 and retired in 2018.

In 2017, El Aynaoui won a match against Bernd Kossler, who was 23 years old then. He was the oldest player to have an ATP ranking.

However, it was his 2003 Australian Open quarterfinals match against Andy Roddick that made him a standout. It was the fifth-longest Grand Slam match. He reached his highest career ranking at No. 13.

El Aynaoui has five titles. 

3) Billie Jean King (47 years)

King started playing professionally in 1968 before retiring in 1990 when she was already 47 years old. 

In 1973, she founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). It was the same year when she first lobbied for equal prize money between male and female tennis players. King was the first woman to earn $100,000 prize money.

She was also the other half of the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match.

She was named Sportsperson of the Year and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1987.

King has a total of 168 titles.

4) Kimiko Date (47 years)

Date played professional tennis for almost three decades (1989-2017). She was 47 years old when she retired. She last played at Japan Women’s Open in 2017.

It was in 1994 when she won her first NSW Open in Sydney, Australia. Because of this, she became the first Japanese player to obtain a WTA ranking at No. 9.

Date has 22 titles. 

5) John McEnroe (46 years)

McEnroe is legendary for his tantrums, but he is more than that. He was dubbed an artist when holding a racquet. His plays are passionate and intense.

He was one of the players who ranked No. 1 at both the men’s singles and doubles division.

His famous rivalries are against Björn Borg and Jimmy Connors.

He played from 1957 to 1980 and won a total of 155 titles.

McEnroe was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

6) Ken Rosewall (46 years)

Rosewall retired in 1980 with a total of 133 career titles.

He has many records under his name. For instance, Rosewall was the oldest major tournament winner when he was 37 years old. It was during the 1972 Australian Open.

Interestingly, Rosewall was also the youngest Australian Open champion.  He won the title in 1953 when she was only 18 years old.

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How Tennis Has Changed Over the Years

If you are wondering how tennis has evolved the years, the most straightforward idea is: with wide variations in tennis, no one player is dominating the sport.

Sure, tennis fans indulge in the prowess and experts of the super trio, namely Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic. However, this is how concentrated the sport is. On the one hand, we got the three, and on the other hand, we got Serena Williams (as if saying women’s tennis is a pretty diffused territory.

How tennis has changed 

A lot of things have happened since tennis became a pro sport in 1968.

If there’s one word to describe modern tennis, that would be power. 

For one, tennis players are using racquets made from graphite composites and carbon fibres. The racquets are lighter but equally durable like wooden racquets. 

The strings, whether they are synthetic or power strings, tend to be looser and generating more spin. As such, a tennis player can hit the ball harder to make it land deep into the court. 

Forehands were Eastern grip before compared to their Western grip counterpart that is mostly used today. Even tennis schools are teaching open-stance forehands. Safe slice serves were also inexistent today than the pre-Open era. 

Tennis courts are totally different today as well. Plays are faster, reinforcing the need for speed. One has to be professional about training, for example, since consistency is also crucial in dominating the charts and records.

The style of play has also changed. It was no longer the serve-and-volley type of game that we saw before. Instead, tennis has become a baseline power game. Tennis has become a more physical sport that tests endurance and agility on the court, among others.

Tennis scoring is also radically different nowadays. A tie-breaker was introduced to quicken the pacing of the match. The players are also entitled to challenge specific calls like those in the lines. A hawkeye instant replay can be used to back either the decision or the call. 

When not playing tennis, the activities are still about the sport though. This is particularly true for diet and fitness regime. It takes a village now to tend to the needs of a tennis player. And that includes a nutritionist or dietician and trainer – both physical and mental, in addition to the actual coach. 

The last one was made possible by this change: prize money. And we are talking about huge prize winnings—hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is expected considering that the first US Open gave away $100,000 in winnings. By 2019, it was $57.2 million.

Athlete endorsements have been an additional source of income too. Federer and Djokovic once earned $25 million each in sponsorship deals in just one year.

Prizes and endorsement earnings also changed the attitude of tennis players for the best, but some for the worst. Knowing, compassionate players launched their own foundations and poured over their earnings to various causes. 

Tennis players are competitive today, nevertheless, because of both financial and non-financial rewards of playing tennis.

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How tennis has changed over the years? Can you name other changes not mentioned in the article?