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Obziler Calls Time On Career

The late-blooming Israeli and Fed Cup stalwart is looking forward to family life and civic duties.

Published August 23, 2009 06:10

Obziler Calls Time On Career
Tzipi Obziler

An extraordinary career came to an end last week when Israeli tennis icon Tzipi Obziler announced her retirement at a press conference. While the crafty 36-year-old might not have scaled the heights she might have dreamt of in the beginning, she'll be remembered for reaching her peak at an age when most players have long hung up their racquets, as well as for her dedication to playing for her country.

Obziler's career was, in fact, a tale in two acts. Having turned professional at 24 she quit the Tour just a few years later, disenchanted, and for nearly two years she coached. However, during this period she kept playing for Israel's Fed Cup team, and after pushing both Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport in a tie in Missouri in 2002, was encouraged to make a full return to the Tour by none other than Billie Jean King, US captain at the time.

Although Obziler took the Tour legend's words to heart, it would nevertheless be another five long years before she really made her breakthrough. In 2007 she cracked the Top 100 and rose to a career best ranking of No.75 - when she was 34. That season she also played a key role in elevating Israel's Fed Cup team to the elite eight-country World Group competition.

Obziler, who gave Venus Williams a three-set fright in the first round at Roland Garros last year, reached her sole Tour singles final at Guangzhou in 2007. She reached the semis on two occasions (2006 Guangzhou and 2007 Bangalore) and the quarters a further six times. She won 14 ITF Circuit singles titles, and was a member of the Israeli Olympic Team at Beijing in 2008.

Earlier this year, she notched her 61st Fed Cup tie appearance, equaling the competition record previously set by her compatriot Anna Smashnova.

Still, the announcement of her retirement came as no great surprise, for this year Obziler has played very few events, and mainly to keep in shape for Fed Cup. But that didn't make the player any less emotional as she told the assembled media how she had been torn between the "desire of every professional athlete for competition and achievement, and the recognition that everything has its proper time and place.

"The time has come," Obziler added. "I thank this small, incredible country for giving me a stage for a tremendous career."

Mom's The Word

Obziler is unlikely to be at a loss as for things to do, not least because she is an elected member of her local Givatayim city council. Even more importantly, two years ago her partner of 13 years, Hadas, gave birth to the couple's daughter, Lihi.

"For Lihi, there was a very clear way of life. There was Mom Hadas at home and Mom Tzipi on the plane," Obziler said. "Now Lihi will get more of me. We have a lot to catch up on."

Still, Obziler hasn't entirely ruled out a future Fed Cup foray should her country need her; Israel lost 3-2 to Estonia in April, and has been relegated to zonal competition. "If captain Lior Mor decides he wants me on the team and I see that I'm physically capable of playing, than of course I wouldn't refuse," she said.

That can only be good news for the country's No.1, Shahar Peer. "This is a very emotional day for me," the 22-year-old told the Israeli press. "Tzipi was like an older sister to me. From my first day in the national team she always helped and supported me. As far as I'm concerned she is a model athlete both on and off the court."

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