It would be hard to find a more well-matched pair of Hall of Fame inductees than Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters.
The American and the Belgian are both 34, and their careers were almost exactly concurrent. They joined the tour at the turn of the century and retired within days of each other at the 2012 U.S. Open. Five years later, they’re both first-ballot Hall of Famers.
These days, 34 sounds like young for a player to receive tennis’ final honor in Newport. Clijsters’ and Roddick’s two primary nemeses, Serena Williams and Roger Federer, are still out on tour winning majors at 35. Roddick and Clijsters, it seems, were the last in the long line of players who made their breakthroughs as teenagers and hung up their racquets when they crossed that ancient, and now vanished, tennis Rubicon of 30.
Clijsters turned pro in 1997, at age 14. Two weeks after her 16th birthday, she made a stunning Grand Slam debut by coming out of qualifying to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon. She retired for the first time at 24 in 2007, before coming back to win three more majors and reach No. 1 as a mom.
Roddick turned pro in 2000, at 18. In 2001, he signaled a changing of the U.S. men’s guard when he beat Pete Sampras in Miami and Michael Chang at the French Open. In 2003, he recorded his first win over Andre Agassi, won the U.S. Open and finished No. 1. Roddick would spend nine straight years in the Top 10, and see his career-long commitment to U.S. tennis rewarded with a Davis Cup title in 2007.