DOHA, Qatar -- Former World No.6 Carla Suárez Navarro waved goodbye to the Qatar Total Open for the last time as a player on Tuesday, after falling in the second round to a dialed-in Petra Kvitova in three sets.
It’s the Spaniard’s last year on tour after announcing her retirement at the end of the 2020 season, putting an end to a 17-year professional career that saw her reach seven Grand Slam quarterfinals and lift two singles trophies - including the famous Falcon here in Doha in 2016.
“I do have beautiful memories, great feelings about this tournament,” Suárez Navarro told wtatennis.com, speaking ahead of her second-round clash. “And of course, every year is different, but knowing that I’m playing here for the last time makes it really special.
“Well, I’m just eager to try to keep playing at my highest level knowing that each match will be… a little complicated.”
As a Premier 5, Doha remains the biggest title of her career - which Suárez Navarro admitted has made the pre-match nerves of her final season even stronger than usual this week.
“Really I just try not to think too much about it,” she explained. “I know it’ll always be ‘the last time’. The only thing that sometimes I worry about it leaving too early from tournaments. I would like to enjoy the tournaments a bit more, play lots of matches, but well, at the moment I think I’m handling everything well.”
A tough 2019 season saw her fall short of her best tennis, reaching only two quarterfinals - in Dubai and San Jose - and sliding more than 20 spots to finish the year outside the Top 50 for the first time since 2011.
But for Suárez Navarro, the slow skid down the rankings actually factored low on her list of reasons for retiring. It was less about sport and more personal: at 31 years old and having played tennis nearly non-stop since the age of nine, the Spaniard simply wants some rest.
Read more: Carla Suarez Navarro to end career in 2020
“Honestly, it’s been a lot of years in tennis, lots of travel,” Suárez Navarro said. “And you know, when you’re young, you don’t value certain things that, as you get older, become more important to you.
“So, I really wanted to spend more time with my family: the only way to do that would be to play less, or to stop playing completely. But tennis isn’t a sport that allows you to play less because then you lose your ranking, you miss big tournaments, lose your fitness.”
“Although obviously, I am getting older and sometimes I’m feeling that the day-to-day grind is getting more difficult, I feel it more now,” she added. “But again, it was totally personal. I just want to be with my family, and it was finally time to say, ‘Okay, we’re done, we’ve still got 2020 and we’re going to make the best of it.’”
One of the most beloved players on tour, Suárez Navarro was blown away by the reaction of her WTA peers, who bombarded her with texts and messages during the off-season and continue to pull her aside at tournaments to lament her departure.
“Some of them start to get a little sad, but when I explain things to them they all understand,” she said. “It’s a normal thing, someone retiring, but to be honest it makes me a bit proud that they all have this affection for me, that they’re going to be sad to not see me around.
“But well, that’s life. And also I’ve told them, ‘Hey I won’t be on tour anymore so that’s another spot for them!’”
The consummate professional even in her farewell season, Suárez Navarro continues to think tournament by tournament, match by match. Rather than pull the plug during the off-season, the Spaniard decided to put together one last push in 2020 - making sure to stop at all of her favorite tournaments and help Spain fight for another Fed Cup title. She’s planning to officially call it a career at the US Open, according to EFE.
“It was a decision that I gradually began speaking with my team about, and in every moment they’ve respected me,” she explained. “But I didn’t want to just say, ‘Okay, I’m done playing, goodbye’. I wanted to have one last year and go to tournaments that I really enjoyed, where I’ve played good tennis and where they’ve been treating us well for many years.”
Suárez Navarro still has no set plans for life after tennis - although she said becoming a mother is at the top of her list - but she’s already proud of the mark that she will leave on the tour.
“I hope people remember me for being someone that always treated others well and had respect for everyone,” Suárez Navarro said. “That’s the most important thing.”
“As a player, I hope people remember me for being a fighter. And for my one-handed backhand,” she added with a grin. “That’s probably what people will remember most about my game, right?
“It makes me proud too, because to have such a signature shot that people remember you for it and think it’s beautiful, for me that’s special and I’m so proud of that.”