Sugiyama Calls It A Career
Published October 03, 2009 12:00
TOKYO, Japan - In 1990, she played her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event in Tokyo, in doubles. Almost exactly 19 years later and in the very same city, Ai Sugiyama wrapped up an incredible career at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, retiring in the first round of singles due to illness but making it all the way to the final in doubles, a great ending to an exemplary run.
Between that doubles appearance at the Nichirei Open and this week it has been an amazing career on the Tour for the Tokyo-born Sugiyama, winning six singles titles and 38 doubles titles. While her best singles results at the Grand Slams were two quarterfinal finishes, she did win three doubles majors. In fact, while her singles career-high of No.8 was amazing enough, reaching No.1 in doubles was undeniably phenomenal (she was the first Asian player ever to hold No.1 in either singles or doubles discipline on the Tour).
Perhaps the 34-year-old's most talked-about feat was the Grand Slam streak. Before her, Wayne Ferreira held the record for most consecutive Grand Slam main draws played, male or female, with 56; Sugiyama broke that record and went much further, the 2009 US Open being her 62nd straight.
Sugiyama's last singles match came on Monday, September 27, 2009, trailing Nadia Petrova, 60 21, when a stomach illness became too much for her to continue on. She went on to reach the doubles final with Daniela Hantuchova. The Japanese icon will be missed not just for her tennis, but also for her grace and warm personality, which won her many, many friends on the Tour and many, many fans around the world. A Tribute to Ai Sugiyama
Check out the photo gallery for some of Ai Sugiyama's best moments.
Sugiyama's most notable career accomplishments:
- Won six singles titles and 38 doubles titles on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
- Spent 29 non-consecutive weeks inside singles Top 10 (including three at career-high No.8) and 45 non-consecutive weeks at No.1 in doubles.
- Best Grand Slam singles results were quarterfinals at 2000 Australian Open (l. to Jennifer Capriati) and 2004 Wimbledon (l. to Maria Sharapova).
- Won three Grand Slam doubles titles, at the 2000 US Open (with Julie Halard-Decugis), 2003 French Open and 2003 Wimbledon (Kim Clijsters).
- Won one Grand Slam mixed title, at 1999 US Open (with Mahesh Bhupathi).
- Played 62 straight Grand Slam main draws (all-time record, male or female).