NEW YORK - Former World No.9 Andrea Petkovic played her final Grand Slam match on Tuesday, bowing out to World No.13 Belinda Bencic 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the first round of the US Open. Petkovic, 34, announced her plans to retire after the US Open.
Currently ranked No.104, Petkovic reached a career-high ranking of No.9 in 2011, becoming the first German woman to be ranked in the Top 10 since Stefanie Graf in 1999. She won seven singles titles on the Hologic WTA Tour, the biggest coming in Charleston in 2014. In addition to her semifinal run at 2014 Roland Garros, Petkovic made three additional Slam quarterfinals, which all came in 2011.
"I was glad that it ended like this, with Belinda, somebody I love and respect so much," Petkovic told reporters after the match. "Also that I could bring to the last match everything that I brought to my career, which was grit and tenacity and just respect for the game and for my opponents."
Petkovic left the door open for a possible exhibition event in Germany to say goodbye with family and friends, but the decision to hang up her racquets crystallized for her in Cincinnati two weeks ago.
"I think for me I still love the game, still have a tremendous amount of passion for the game," Petkovic said. "It's more the body that is not allowing me to play tennis anymore in a way that I want to play it, train the way I want to train, just play a full season really."
A fan-favorite known for her off-beat "Petkorazzi" video blogs, post-match dancing, and sharp wit in the press room, Petkovic's career had seen her bounce back from devastating injuries to rebuild her career time and time again. But things were different this time around. The injuries and niggles were mounting up and she struggled to play a consistent schedule with consistent training.
"The last four weeks I've just been playing with painkillers and anti-inflammatories," Petkovic said. "That was just the part that made me decide not to continue anymore, not the lack of passion or want for the game. So I think that was the saddest part in a way."
The toughest part of the decision was dealing with the emotions in the days leading up to her match. She wondered aloud how Serena Williams, who announced her own retirement after the US Open, was able to handle everything swirling around her to win her opening match. Petkovic was prepared to announce her retirement in Toronto. Then she woke up and saw Williams' bombshell in "Vogue." In a way, Petkovic says, it was a blessing for the attention to be on Williams in New York.
Deep down, Petkovic had a sense her chapter in the annals of tennis history was over. She said it was fitting, though still painful, that her final match came against one of the young stars of the game.
"I did feel this year also for the first time that my narrative has been told and is not relevant anymore in a way, that the new generation is taking over," Petkovic said. "I think I brought everything to the game that I had to give. Obviously it's not in an amount as Serena, but in my own little world, I feel like I brought everything to it and my narrative was done.
"That was also part of it, that I just felt like I didn't have anything more to give from a narrative perspective to tennis."
It came to no one's surprise that Petkovic, a player who was just as likely to be seen wandering the halls with a Tolstoy tome as a Wilson racquet, would be so conscious of the narrative structure of her career.
"In the beginning I was up-and-coming. Then I had these injuries. Then my narrative felt like the comeback story. I still wanted to prove to everyone that I could do it. Then eventually I was a little tired of tennis. Then I decided to stick with it for the love of the game. So that has been my personal narrative for the past few years.
"I just felt like it was told. It was the last chapter. When I was up-and-coming, we had the same situation for a while where all these young players were coming on tour, but they still didn't find their footing. They were winning one tournament, then losing five times [in the] first round. Then all of a sudden it kind of shaped into the stars we have now who were Kvitova, Azarenka, the Williamses obviously. This is now my generation I'm talking about, Sharapova, Ivanovic, Jankovic.
"I feel this is something that was happening the last two years. This year it kind of settled. We now have the stars who are going to be the future who are settling into their footprints, like Swiatek, Sakkari, Bencic, Badosa, all these players who belong in the top and who will shape the narratives of the sport in the future."
Andrea Petkovic: "I was glad that it ended like this, with Belinda, somebody I love and respect so much.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) August 30, 2022
"Also that I could bring to the last match everything that I brought to my career, which was grit and tenacity, and just respect for the game and for my opponents."#USOpen
The most emotional moment from Petkovic's press conference came when she discussed the inspiration she's taken from her 16 years on the Hologic WTA Tour.
"It's such a competitive environment, but in the most beautiful way, if that makes sense," Petkovic said. "Throughout all the pressure and demands that we have from our countries back home, playing Billie Jean King Cup, playing the Grand Slams, having all this pressure all the time and then going through it, we can be competitive cats - and we should be on court - but I feel like everyone empathizes with each other. I always felt that with all my fellow colleagues. I think that's why it made me so emotional just talking about it.
"I do like to read and I do like to intellectualize things sometimes. But when it comes down to what life is about, it's about emotions and connecting to other people. That's something I always found on the WTA Tour with my colleagues and with my other just female counterparts that were doing this really hard thing with me.
"I think that's the thing that, as I said, I'm most grateful for, just something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. These lessons that I had in being able to be competitive but also kind of having a sisterhood at the same time."