Patty Schnyder: Closing The Amazing Chapter
Published May 29, 2011 12:00
PARIS, France - For almost two decades she dazzled us with her unique game, perhaps a game that will never be seen again on the WTA, and after a long and illustrious career Patty Schnyder said goodbye, announcing her retirement at a special press conference at Roland Garros on Saturday.
"It's time to close this amazing chapter of being a tennis player," Schnyder said. "It's a very emotional decision, but above all I feel thankful and proud of all the moments I was able to share all over the world with the fans and the champions of many decades. It's overwhelming... yeah, it's just overwhelming feelings..."
Schnyder's talents were clear from the start. Not only did she possess the power that would keep her game relevant for the 17 years that followed, but she had an array of spins that would separate her from the pack for that span as well. Her big lefty serve kept opponents on edge and you never knew what to expect - it was a game that keeps a player in the Top 50 for 14 years.
The breakthrough season was 1998 - five WTA titles and a pair of Grand Slam quarterfinals, and among those runs at the majors was one of the purest moments of tactical genius, her upset of the Queen Of The WTA at the US Open, where her lefty game was almost invincible against Steffi Graf in the fourth round. It was that night Schnyder's future at the top seemed inevitable.
As the years went on Schnyder's numbers kept growing - she won her 11th WTA singles title in Bali in 2008 and her fifth WTA doubles title in Stuttgart the same year. She reached one Grand Slam semifinal at the 2004 Australian Open and another six Grand Slam quarterfinals (two in Melbourne, two in Paris, two in New York) and reached career-highs of No.7 and No.15 in singles and doubles. The Swiss earned over $8 million in career prize money alone.
She also compiled an impressive list of wins over marquee names, in addition to the aforementioned upset of Graf. Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters...
What were her biggest victories? "I'm so lucky to mention a few. Definitely the win in Zürich, the biggest tournament I won, and especially at home. And the Fed Cup in Switzerland. I can also name almost all of the champions of the past 20 years who I've beaten, which feels so good too. I'm so proud of all of it."
A long, successful career can sometimes take its toll, however, and Schnyder lost some of her fire in 2011. A string of early losses leading up to the French catalyzed her decision. "It was obvious even after all those years that I had some tennis left in me, but the way those last five weeks on clay went, I wasn't able to push away the desire to do other things in life," she commented.
Schnyder lost her first round match at the French last week. "It takes so much energy every year to come back and compete at the highest level, and to try to become better so you can stay up there with the great champions. I never thought I'd have the energy - even the body or the health, to go on and on.
"The evening after singles I said I'd reached my 100%. I thought maybe I could last a few more months or perhaps the year, but with my age and all the years I put in, the years and the energy I've invested in tennis, I reached the decision."
As the 32-year-old fought off tears, she was asked if she had any regrets. "Maybe regret is too strong a word, but as a kid I had so many dreams, and so many of them came true. A Grand Slam final was definitely a dream.
"It will remain a dream..."