One of the longest and most celebrated careers in tennis has come to an end, with popular Catalonian Tommy Robredo bowing out just weeks short of his 40th birthday.
The former World No.5 and 12-time ATP title winner bid farewell to the game he served so magnificently with a straight-sets loss to Italy's Davide Sanguinetti in Barcelona.
Fittingly, his final match came at the venue that was the scene of his first-ever career title back in 2005.
Robredo spent 23 seasons competing at the highest level with grace, humility and determination that made him loved by fans and rivals the world over.
“There was no better place than here to retire,” Robredo told the ATP. “The time has come. Last year I still wasn’t ready, I thought I could play a bit more, but I didn’t like playing without fans, so I was much more excited to say goodbye this year the way I wanted to.”
One thing we can say with certainty is the fans would be thrilled it went this way too.
“The entire journey has been really wonderful,” Robredo added. “I love tennis and being able to enjoy this world and being part of it is really wonderful.
"I have always had moments throughout these years that are more memorable because of a title or a special victory. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t moments when I didn’t win that weren’t also spectacular. I’m happy with my whole career, and with all the years I was able to be there.”
Robredo was a seven-time grand slam quarterfinalist, with his first appearance in the last eight, back in 2003 as a 21-year-old, his best chance at progressing.
The Spaniard led Albert Costa two sets to love and was up a break in the fourth before succumbing in five sets. He would return to the quarters at Roland Garros again in 2005, losing another five-setter to David Nalbandian.
Nalbandian paid tribute to his good friend this week, among a host of past and present players to do so.
“Tommy, the time to retire has arrived. It happens to us all sooner or later. We’ve shared many great moments since we were juniors: good ones, bad ones, injuries, titles, victories, defeats... so I wish you the best.” He said.
In Robredo's other five quarterfinal appearances (3 more at the French, one at the Aus Open and another at the US Open), three defeats would come at the hands of Federer and Nadal, with the others against Del Potro and Ferrer, showing the lofty heights required to bring down the rock-solid baseliner.
Not blessed with a thundering serve, Robredo's consistent and dependable action combined with fluent groundstrokes on both wings made him a constant threat. A testament to his resilience was in the 2013 French Open, where he came from two sets down in three consecutive matches to reach his first grand slam quarterfinal in four years.
That very same season saw him defeat Roger Federer in the US Open, before downing Novak Djokovic for the second time in his career at the Cincinnati Masters in 2014.
Robredo sits inside the top 50 money earners of all time and is sixth for matches won amongst all Spanish players, with only Nadal, Ferrer, Orantes, Verdasco and Robredo ahead of him.
Former French Open finalist David Ferrer also paid tribute to his countryman.
“Congratulations on everything you’ve achieved in your great career. You can be proud and relax. I hope you now enjoy your family and your daughter, who is beautiful. It has been a pleasure to share all those years that we have enjoyed since we were young. I hope you really enjoy yourself! You are a great player and a great person. Congratulations.” Ferrer said.
Robredo's 12 ATP titles were highlighted by victory in the ATP 1000 event in Hamburg back in 2006 against Radek Stepanek, and 11 of those 12 titles would come on his favoured surface of clay.
As he got on in years, his competitive streak never diminished, with three challenger titles coming in 2018 and 2019, and he was still playing grand slam qualifiers as recently as last year.
Robredo would win 107 Grand Slam matches, appearing in a staggering 58 slam events, or nearly 15-years of major appearances.
He would also be a part of three Davis Cup winning teams in 2004, 2008 and 2009. A member of the 2009 squad was Feliciano Lopez, who was also full of praise for his teammate.
“First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on your great career. I think you have set an example with your professionalism and everything a tennis player needs to achieve everything you have. Also, I would like to tell you that you were the best roommate I could hope to have. I’m really glad to see you so happy in this new phase of your life.” Lopez said.
Another fitting tribute came from 2004 French Open finalist Guillermo Coria who spoke from the heart about a man he locked horns with many times on tour.
“I imagine you’ll be very emotional about this heartfelt tribute. I would like to send you a big hug from Argentina and congratulate you for the career you’ve had. I remember really tough matches we’ve played as juniors and professionals. It was a pleasure to share my career with you. You are a true example for the children in how professional you are on and off the court. I hope you are very happy in the new phase of your life you are starting.” Coria said.
The final word goes to Disco Tommy himself, who reflected on a journey that saw him reach the top five in the world and achieve arguably the most difficult thing in international sport, durability and longevity. For that, and everything else, he leaves a hole that will be difficult to fill.
“I dreamt of being a tennis player and I managed to get very good in the world of tennis, with big titles and achievements. I’m very happy that people have been able to enjoy it, but above all that I’ve done what every child dreams of, being a professional."