Dementieva’s Retirement: Foreshadowing What’s to Come?

After the final round robin match of the Doha Championships, all of the players gathered on the court for a special announcement. Elena Dementieva, a stalwart of the women’s tennis tour, was about to upset the delicate balance of the tennis world by announcing her retirement, effective immediately. In a very touching ceremony, Elena thanked her supporters while the audience, her mom, Vera, and the other YEC competitors looked on. Everyone, even stony faced Sam Stosur, looked a bit teary eyed by the end Elena’s speech.

Elena’s abrupt departure set the tennis world abuzz. Were there more high profile retirements on the horizon? Later that day, Kim Clijsters announced that she would wrap up her career, for the second time, after the 2012 Olympics. Thanks for the warning Kim, but you’re at least a year ahead of yourself. Talk about the longest goodbye tour ever.

The way I see it, neither extreme is the way to go. I’m not a huge fan of Elena Dementieva, but even I felt jilted by her sudden exit. I wanted a farewell tour damn it, but not two years worth of farewell. We’ve seen both mistakes before. Justine Henin almost retroactively announced her retirement even though she was the world number one at the time, depriving fans of a proper goodbye. On the other hand, Marat Safin, a former number one player, gave us a full season’s notice, and by the end of the season he’d been asked so many retirement questions that the actual day couldn’t come fast enough. If you want my suggestion, the best time for a player to announce their retirement is before the last major event they plan to play. Clearly there are exceptions to any rule, but this allows the player a proper farewell in front of a large crowd and gives fans enough time to accept the inevitable.

Elena Dementieva

As much as I hate to say it, I think the next couple of years are going to be full of these tearful goodbyes. Many of our favorite players are pushing 30 and for tennis players, that’s just about ancient. Here are a few of my best guesses as to who will be trading in their racket for retirement in the coming years.

The Honor Roll

My honorable mentions go out to players who will almost certainly retire Slamless, but who have given us a great deal of entertainment and heart over the years.

Tommy Haas

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Tommy play anymore tennis, which is unfortunate because he deserves a nice send off. This former top 10 player is already 32 years old and his ranking has dropped down into the 300s after undergoing hip surgery earlier this year. Nothing’s out of the question, but the chances of Tommy coming back strong at this point are slim.

James Blake

This 30 year old New Yorker has had recurring knee issues and lackluster results this year. I attended James’ 3rd round match against Novak Djokovic at this year’s US Open and I couldn’t help but think of it as a kind of last hurrah. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blake pulls the plug any minute now.

Nikolay Davydenko

Davydenko broke his wrist earlier this year, which kept him out for the majority of the season, but his ranking has stayed high. The 29 year old has often been considered a contender for a major title but has always fallen short, way short, when it comes to the Grand Slams. I’m basing this one solely on age, not performance. If he stays in shape and avoids more injuries, Nikolay could prove me wrong.

The Cum Laude Society

Venus Williams

I may not shed a tear over this one, but I know someone will. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Williams sisters, an opinion based purely on behavior, not talent. However, I also don’t really know how to picture the tennis world without Venus and little sister Serena. Venus turned 30 this year and underwent knee surgery after this year’s US Open. She actually posted great results at the Slams this year, reaching two quarterfinals and a semifinal, but I question how much longer she can keep it up. I have a feeling Venus will let us know pretty early on when she plans to retire. She strikes me as the type that wants a long farewell tour.

Lleyton Hewitt

This one will be a little bit tougher. Lleyton Hewitt’s a pretty likeable guy, so I’d imagine fans will be sad to see him go. I mean who can resist the Aussie accent? Hewitt was once number one in the world but his career has been riddled with injuries. Lleyton’s career peaked early on when he became the youngest man ever to be ranked number one at the age of 20, the same year he picked up the US Open title and the World Tour Finals. He followed up those results by winning Wimbledon in 2002 and defending his WTF title. I wouldn’t exactly say that things have been downhill since then, but a man who’s won two Grand Slam singles titles does not aspire to be ranked 50th in the world and very rarely making an appearance in the second week of a major. Lleyton’s wife recently gave birth to their third child and I have a feeling that this 29 year old’s tennis days are numbered. I hope that Hewitt gives us a little notice and decides to wrap things up at the Australian Open. He deserves a good hometown send off.

Andy Roddick

I’m dreading this, a lot. Andy has always been one of my favorite tennis players and I’ve always felt he had the talents to win several Grand Slams. Roddick triumphed at the 2003 US Open against Juan Carlos Ferrero, but in every subsequent Grand Slam final he’s been thwarted by Roger Federer. The current total is at four, three Wimbledon and one US Open. Most recently, in what I consider to be one of the most heartbreaking matches of all time, Andy lost to Roger Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon final 16-14 in the deciding set. As much as I would love to see Roddick keep playing for years to come, Andy has said that he will not overstay his welcome in the tennis world. If he cannot maintain a high ranking, Andy will retire. Lucky for us, Andy is currently still in the top 10 and on course to appear in his eighth consecutive World Tour Final, so maybe we’ll get a few more years.

Roger Federer

Honestly, I don’t even want to discuss this. Roger Federer is my favorite tennis player and really the reason I fell in love with tennis. I think he’s the greatest ambassador the sport has ever had and an incredible example of what a star athlete should be. For me, Federer’s retirement will leave a gaping hole in the tennis world. Even if you’re a Rafa fan, you should be able to appreciate that the famous rivalry has helped make both players as great as they are today. Luckily, Federer is on a quest for the one trophy that has eluded him, an Olympic gold medal. Although, he did recently say that winning one more Wimbledon is actually more important to him than the Olympic gold. Roger has confirmed that he will definitely continue playing through the 2012 Olympics, but after that all bets are off. I personally believe Fed is not done winning Grand Slams and would love to see him go out on a high note (maybe a late career title at Wimbledon, I think that would be fitting.) However, if he’s not winning, I can’t imagine Roger will stick around. Currently he possesses a record 16 major titles and is ranked number two in the world. If his ranking starts to slip and he starts losing to nobodies, you can count on his retirement. Finally, Roger better not pull any of this surprise retirement crap. I have yet to see Federer play live and I fully intend to do so before he retires, so I’m going to need plenty of notice.