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Brady Bunch: Could Kyrgios, Venus and Murray be part of the 2023 retirement wave?
Tom's farewell to football, and a 2022 filled with goodbyes in tennis, got us thinking.
Published Feb 02, 2023
PRESS CONFERENCE: Andy Murray after his loss at the Australian Open
The modern-day pantheon of active athletes got smaller yesterday when seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady announced that he was retiring from the National Football League. It was headline news across the sports world, a feeling tennis fans know all too well after 2022, when a number of the game’s greats stepped away.
Brady, 45 years old and the winningest quarterback in NFL history, got to call it a day on his terms, but not every superstar is able to make that decision. Roger Federer was forced off the court due to a knee issue, much like the oft-injured Juan Martin del Potro. Contrast those exits with Ashleigh Barty, who ended her career like Pete Sampras—or one of Brady’s peers, Peyton Manning—by going out on top and winning her last event. Serena Williams, an icon on and off the court, decided to “evolve” away from the game with a stirring, if trophy-less, farewell tournament.
Those were far from the only notable retirements in 2022: former Top 10 players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andrea Petkovic, Kevin Anderson and Gilles Simon called it quits, along with Grand Slam doubles champions Bruno Soares, Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke.
At some point, it seemed like a never-ending wave of players stepping away. Which begs the question: What will 2023 do for an encore?
Already, former US Open champion Samantha Stosur has stepped away from the game, with Sania Mirza and Feliciano Lopez making their impending retirements known. Here’s a look at some others to keep an eye on this year, as it could possibly be their last:
It was the year tennis fans had been waiting for: Nick was playing up to his potential. Though the Australian was near the Top 10 in 2016, the next few years had been rather underwhelming results-wise, due to health—both physical and mental—and the impact of the global pandemic on travel.
But finding stability off the court helped the 27-year-old have his best campaign on it. The 2022 season starting with Kyrgios winning his first Grand Slam title at his home Slam in doubles. A few months later, he reached the Wimbledon final in singles, losing in four tight sets to Novak Djokovic. He seemed primed to go that far at the US Open before falling in five sets in the quarterfinals.
Over the past few months, Kyrgios has been vocal about his desire to win a Slam, having come closer than ever lately. What’s been different compared to other players, though, is that he’s stated that if he picks up a major, he’s likely to call it a career.
Kyrgios’ 2023 Australian Open was over before the tournament even began due to a lingering knee problem and subsequent surgery. It’s been several years since he’s played in Paris, but if his mind and body are right for London and New York, he’s sure to be among the title contenders. Should he capture one, it would be hard to not see him sticking to his word.
After an opening-round loss to Jenson Brooksby in Auckland, New Zealand in January, Fabio Fognini took to Instagram to say goodbye to the tournament, intimating that it was the last time that he would be playing there.
Will more farewells like this become the norm for the enigmatic Italian?
After falling in the first round in Melbourne, Fognini revealed that he had a foot injury, but will be working back to playing shape. The 2020s haven’t been particularly kind to the 35-year-old, who has posted a below-.500 record since the start of the decade, after peaking at No. 9 in 2019. That was the year that saw him win the biggest title of his career, the Monte Carlo Masters. The 1000-level clay-court tournament was also the last time he reached a singles final.
While singles struggles persist, Fognini has experienced a resurgence in doubles, reaching four finals with countryman Simone Bolelli (and another with Horacio Zeballos). The 2015 Australian Open champions won two tournaments last year and were in the hunt for a spot in the ATP Finals until the very end.
Still, with injuries mounting and a growing family with Hall of Fame nominee Flavia Pennetta, the lure of home might be strong. If his Auckland post was any indication, Fognini’s Instagram account might be worth monitoring in the months ahead.
Few athletes have had as much scrutiny on them when it comes to their future plans as this former world No. 1. Since the start of 2020, Venus has posted a 5-22 record in tour events; at the US Open a few months ago, she was ranked outside of the Top 1500 (that is not a typo). Williams made the trip Down Under this year, and won her first match since Wimbledon in 2021. But after losing her next match to Lin Zhu, she was unable to compete in the Australian Open due to injury.
Williams was playing well in Auckland, and unfortunately didn’t get to showcase the state of her game at the Grand Slam level. Despite her time becoming increasingly occupied with various off-court interests, Williams is still putting in the on-court hours. Even if her tournament entry is primarily through wild cards nowadays, she can never really be counted out against any opponent. Cracking the Top 100 against players approximately half her age, though, will require a tremendous amount of effort, and as she approaches 43, it might not be a path worth pursuing much longer.
Like Williams, Andy Murray’s place in the sport’s history is well-secured, and he has nothing left to prove to anyone—except to himself.
In Melbourne this year, Murray outlasted two players a decade younger than him in Matteo Berrettini and Thanasi Kokkinakis—the latter in a near-six-hour marathon which ended at 4 a.m. local time—before facing Roberto Bautista Agut. A nightmare for anyone after back-to-back grueling matches, RBA ousted Sir Andrew Barron Murray OBE in four sets, but Muzz left the tournament with more confidence in his game.
All but retired a few years ago, due to what he thought would be an unsolvable hip problem, Murray has battled on, metal joint and all. He’s coming off a season that saw him reach his first two finals in nearly three years, and he has been back in the Top 100 since last January. A good run, and he could find himself among the Top 30, where he could avoid the game’s elite in the early rounds. Judging by what he just accomplished at the Australian Open, that could come sooner than expected.
And if he does work himself close to where he once was, the former world No. 1 could decide that’s it’s enough.
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In Strasbourg last year, right before the French Open, Angelique Kerber captured the 14th title of her career, and her first in just over a year. She posted a 6-3 record over her next three tournaments before shutting down her 2022 campaign for the best of reasons: she’s set to become a parent for the first time.
The German just turned 35 a month ago, and since the start of the decade has seen her title-winning efforts slow to a relative crawl. Her 2021 title in Bad Homburg was her first since her stunning Wimbledon run in 2018. Over the course of her career, Kerber has done enough for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, with three Grand Slam titles and place atop the rankings. Finding the motivation for more could potentially be difficult—especially when a new, and welcome, challenge lies ahead.