So it has happened, Fernando lost in 3 sets last night to Nico Mahut and brought down the curtain on his tennis career.
Fernando Gonzalez played the final match of his career on Wednesday, falling to Nicolas Mahut 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3) in a riveting night-session opener at the Sony Ericsson Open.
The Chilean trailed Mahut 4-5, 15/40 in the final set, before showcasing his craft at the net which saw him win the 2004 Athens Olympics gold medal with Nicolas Massu, saving both match points with a forehand volley winner. He denied the Frenchman an additional match point to even the set at 5-5.
The two held in their final service games to battle it out in a tie-break, where Mahut grabbed the momentum, breaking down Gonzalez’s backhand. The 31-year-old Gonzalez had the misfortunate of ending his career with a double fault, but it was quickly forgotten as he was greeted with a roaring applause from the crowd in celebration of his achievements.
“I saved a couple of match points before, and I felt that it’s going be the end, and then I have the chance to keep playing,” said Gonzalez. “I had my chances. But Nicolas played better in the important moments, and I was a little bit tired at the end.”
He was presented a commemorative frame by ATP Executive Chairman and President Brad Drewett, and Sony Ericsson Open Executive Vice President and Tournament Director Adam Barrett. A special video tribute featuring goodbyes from Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, the Bryan Brothers and David Nalbandian aired on the big screens.
“At the end, the video was great. It’s not only about tennis. It’s also about friends,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, we’ve been playing against each other many times, but at the end of the day we are friends. We have a great relationship. Of course, the atmosphere was great. We’re really far away from Chile, and there was little flags. There was my family here. I had a lot of friends, and I really enjoyed the moment.”
Gonzalez completes his career with a 370-202 record, highlighted by 11 ATP World Tour titles. He finished runner-up to Roger Federer at the 2007 Australian Open, which enabled him to break into the Top 5. In addition to his doubles gold medal, Gonzalez captured the bronze medal in Athens and a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also reached two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court finals at Madrid in 2006, and Rome in 2007.
“I don’t have the energy to get up in the morning, train like I have to train, travel like I have to travel,” admitted Gonzalez. “And I’ve been doing this for many years. If I’m not going to be 100 per cent, I think I have to do something else.”
Mahut will play 2010 Miami finalist and No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych in the second round.
ATP Tribute Video: