Surrounded by his family and friends, Pablo Andújar ended his professional career this week at the Faulcombridge Cup, an ATP Challenger Tour tournament that was held in Valencia.
At 37 years old, Andújar said goodbye on Tuesday on the court when he played his last match against his compatriot and tournament guest Martin Landaluce, before receiving an emotional tribute on Saturday, rounded off for a few days.
Andújar leaves with four ATP Tour titles won (in Casablanca 2011 and 2012, Gstaad 2014 and Marrakech 2018), in addition to reaching five more finals (Bucharest 2010 and 2011, Stuttgart 2011, Barcelona 2015 and Marrakech 2019).
In 2015, during his best period, the Spaniard rose to No. 32 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on July 13, 2015.
“The overall balance of my career is positive,” Andújar explained to ATPTour.com. “There are many experiences and experiences over all these years that have allowed me to be the person I am. If we talk about my tennis career, I think it has been a career in which things could have been done better, but in which everything I have done has been thinking that it was the most positive thing,” he continued. “It has been a pretty decent career. That’s the word.”
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With more than 400 ATP Tour matches played, a professional since 2003, Andújar leaves tennis with a spectacular background, having fulfilled his dream of becoming a professional and playing in the major tournaments on the calendar.
“I don’t think it has been that successful,” said the man from Cuenca. “I watched tournaments as a child and always thought I could compete in them. The fact of being able to compete in them already makes my dream come true. I don’t think I’ve gotten that far, but I do think that being able to play the best tournaments in the world, well in some way… I don’t know if it surprised me, I don’t know if that’s the word, but I do think that with that I’ve been able to fulfill a dream,” he said.
“When you start, you are not so aware of what it costs, you are not so aware of what a career entails, you are not so aware of what things cost,” Andújar reflected. “You’re not really aware of all the work that goes into being able to reach the goal of playing in a major tournament, for example.”
So many years, logically, are loaded with moments and memories, experiences of a life traveling the world to hit a tennis ball. What are the three that the Spanish would highlight the most?
“First, when I won my first ATP tournament in Casablanca; second, the defeat with Rafa [Nadal] in Rio, which I think was the best game of my career; and third, when after the injury of two and a half years without competing, I return and win in Marrakech. Those are the three moments.”
The first moment corresponds to the title he won in Morocco in 2011, when he defeated the Italian Potito Starace in the final, putting the finishing touch to a week in which he had defeated Florent Serra, Jeremy Chardy, Pere Riba and Albert Montañes, before being crowned in the decisive match.
The second moment is found in the semifinal match he played against Nadal in the semifinals of Rio de Janeiro, in 2014. Andújar touched the victory with his hands, since he had two match points, which he could not take advantage of, to finish falling in the tiebreaker (12-10 for the champion of 22 Grand Slam titles).
And the third moment, as it could not be otherwise, corresponds to the ordeal he overcame after returning from three elbow operations in two and a half years. When it seemed that retirement could be an option, Andújar recovered and regained his best level, breaking into the Top 100 again (2018), becoming the second lowest ranked champion (No. 355) capable of winning an ATP title Tour* since Lleyton Hewitt did it in Adelaide 1998 as No. 550 and culminating the return by climbing to the Top 50 again (2019).
“My greatest success was being able to compete again after the injury, for five years,” Andújar acknowledged. “And compete until the last moment and at a good level of tennis. The biggest disappointment… the Davis Cup,” he confessed. “Not being able to win qualifying rounds, I won a match, although no qualifying round. You have that pressure to play for your country, which I, personally, would have liked.”
Aside from those moments, Andújar retires leaving behind great victories (for example, he was able to beat Roger Federer in Geneva 2021), but also an attitude worth remembering and being learned by the players who come tomorrow.
“I don’t know if I left a legacy, that seems to me to be something for the players who have been better than me,” he said. “I would like to be remembered as someone who has always tried to be polite, who gets along with everyone, who has not made enemies. Tennis, despite being a solitary sport, is also a sport in which we are all partners. And that’s how I see it.”
“The greatest lesson that tennis has taught me is to learn to value things and respect all people,” acknowledged Andújar, who will continue to be linked to the world of tennis from the ATP Council as a representative of the players on the ATP Board. “And, above all, to resist the difficulties that often get in the way. I think that is the greatest lesson.”
One of the greats is leaving, on and off the track.