The US Open is known for being big, bold, and brash, with some epic occasions on the iconic Arthur Ashe Stadium. And with the combination of being the final slam of the year, it’s no surprise that many greats of the game choose to hang up their rackets.
This year is no different, as John Isner announced in a social media post that the tournament would be an ideal way to end his career, stating, “I feel it is the right way to go.” Although Isner isn’t a grand slam champion, the former Top 10 player and Miami champion will long be remembered for his epic 70-68 fifth set match win against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010.
John is, of course, American, and most of the grand retirements we’ve seen over the years at the tournament have been from this great tennis nation.
There have been countless retirements over the years, but these five are tfive that stand out from the pack.
Before last year’s tournament, Serena announced that the US Open would be her last ever tournament. Each one of her matches saw outrageous scenes as fans came to celebrate and say goodbye to one of the game’s all-time greats.
After dispatching Danka Kovinić in straight sets, she set New York alight with a tough three-set match against world no.2 Anett Kontaveit.
This set up a showdown with Australia’s Alja Tomljanović, who handled Serena and the 20,000+ crowd to win the match.
Serena has since said she has mixed feelings about retiring. In an interview with E!, she made it clear she thought she could win the tournament and achieve a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam.
“I was there to keep going and to keep winning, and it was more or less like, I can't believe I let that match go more than anything,” she said.
Could we see a return from Serena? Possibly… but for now, her retirement is still one of the most passionate we’ve seen in the sport.
Going into the 2002 US Open, Pete Sampras was in the midst of a “changing of the guard.” He had dropped outside the Top 10, lost to Roger Federer the year before at Wimbledon, and had lost the previous year’s US Open to Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt.
As the 17th seed, he saw off Greg Rusedski, world no.3 Tommy Haas, and the new American prodigy Andy Roddick on his way to the final. There he would meet his great rival Andre Agassi. Pete would win the match to claim his 14th Grand Slam title, 12 years after winning his maiden title in New York.
Although he wouldn’t announce his retirement there and then, it was a winning finish to his illustrious career. He would come back 12 months later for a grand retirement ceremony on Arthur Ashe. A fitting way to go out.
In 2006, Andre Agassi announced that the US Open would be his last ever tournament. The eight-time Grand Slam winner went into the tournament unseeded, despite making the final the year prior.
After seeing off Andrei Pavel in the first round, he won an epic five-set thriller against 8th seed Marcos Baghdatis. Unfortunately for Agassi, German qualifier Benjamin Becker spoiled the party.
Despite the loss, the crowd’s support overwhelmed an emotional Agassi.
“The scoreboard said I lost today, but what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what I found. Over the last 21 years I have found loyalty. You have pulled me through on the court and also in life,” he said.
It was a fitting goodbye for the much-loved American.
With 18 Grand Slam titles, Chris Evert is one of the greatest female players of all time. After winning her first major in 1974, she won her final one 12 years later at the 1986 French Open.
She would finish her career at the US Open, where she won a record-equalling six titles in her career. As the fourth seed in the 1989 tournament, she made her way comfortably through the field to the quarter-finals, including a 6-0, 6-2 drubbing of a young Monica Seles.
However, Zina Garrison ended the fairytale, defeating her in straight sets. If Evert had won, she would have faced her great rival Martina Navratilova in the semi-finals. She wrapped up her thoughts by simply saying that “Mentally, playing so many matches in my career has finally caught up to me.”
Although it was a retirement from the professional tour, she would play the Fed Cup a month later, leading the US to victory.
Andy Roddick was the last American men’s player to win a Grand Slam title. That win, at the 2003 US Open, was early in his very solid career. He would make three Wimbledon finals and win the Davis Cup for the US in 2007.
At the 2012 US Open, he announced his retirement in dramatic fashion, waiting until a press conference on his 30th birthday during the tournament to do it. This was also between his first-round win and his next match against Aussie Bernard Tomic. Andy dispatched Bernie, then Fognini before falling to 7th seed Juan Martín del Potro.
A special mention also must be made to Kim Clijsters, who also retired at the same US Open as Andy Roddick but would return in 2020.
Of course, these only scratch the surface of the retirements we’ve seen at the US Open.
Just last year saw Sam Querrey, Andre Petkovic, Christine McHale, and Bruno Soares all finish up in New York.
So could we see another surprise announcement this year or even a surprise comeback at the tournament?
Time will tell. However, for John Isner, who is guaranteed to finish his career over the next two weeks in New York, he’ll be in great company by finishing his career on such a grand stage.