I’ve been following the ATP and WTA closely for 20+ years now. Never do I remember a year with so many career retirements.
Part of it could be pandemic-related reasons with players holding out in 2020 and 2021 in hopes to have one last full “normal” year on tour. Another reason could also be the fact that I followed and covered the tour in 2022 much closer than I ever have before (especially doubles).
From tennis GOATS like Roger Federer and Serena Williams saying emotional goodbyes to the unexpected retirement announcement of 26-year-old Ash Barty to a long list of top doubles players, tennis fans saw a wide variety of players hang up their racquets in 2022. The ATP made a great gesture by honoring all of its singles and doubles players who recently retired at the 2022 ATP Finals in Turin (Take notes, WTA).
In this two-part series, we’ll highlight an impressive list of players who closed the last chapter of their career in 2022 and each left their own unique legacy on the sport. First, let’s start with the women.
1. Serena Williams
- Career Doubles Record: 190-35 (85%)
- Career Doubles Titles: 23 (14 majors)
- Career Doubles High Ranking: 1
14-0 in major doubles finals and three Olympic doubles gold medals… need we say more? Sure, Serena is far better known for her singles accomplishments and global stardom than she is on the doubles court.
But she and Venus both garnered a Hall of Fame worthy career in doubles alone and will go down as one of the greatest teams of all time. Currently, they are no. 3 on the all-time grand slam doubles winners list behind Gigi Fernandez/Natasha Zvereva (17) and Martina Navratilova/Pam Shriver (19).
The most impressive aspect of Serena’s doubles career was her ability to go without playing for several months (or even years) and quickly come back to winning titles. Serena’s doubles peak came between 2008-2012 when she and Venus posted a 72-7 record, won seven majors and a doubles gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and both achieved the doubles world no. 1 ranking.
Is Serena actually retired, though? Her recent Instagram posts might tell you otherwise. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her back in 2023 hungry for more.
2. Ash Barty
- Career Doubles Record: 200-64 (75%)
- Career Doubles Titles: 12 (1 major title)
- Career High Doubles Ranking: 5
In March 2022, former world no. 1 Ash Barty surprised the tennis world with a retirement announcement shortly after winning the Australian Open singles title. Before she climbed to the top of the singles game, Ash Barty was most well known for her exceptional doubles resume.
With a strong first serve, unbeatable backhand slice, high tennis IQ, and cool composure, it’s no surprise Barty was a natural on the doubles court. In the first chapter of her career, she and good friend Casey Dellacqua finished runner-up in all four doubles majors between 2013-2017.
After briefly retiring and returning to tennis for the second chapter of her career, Barty finally won her first and only women’s doubles major title at the 2018 U.S. Open alongside Coco Vandeweghe. The following year, she again finished runner-up with Victoria Azarenka at 2019 Roland Garros.
Before retiring for the second time in 2022, Barty won doubles titles with Jen Brady (2021 Stuttgart) and Storm Sanders (2022 Adelaide). She also captured the bronze medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics with fellow Aussie John Peers.
Could the third time be the charm for a future Ash Barty return to professional tennis?
3. Kim Clijsters
- Career Doubles Record: 131-55 (70%)
- Career Doubles Titles: 11 (2 majors)
- Career High Doubles Ranking: 1
Kim Clijsters will go down as one of the best natural athletes and movers of the women’s game, with her legendary splits that would make any fan’s jaw drop. This athleticism translated well to both the singles and doubles court.
Though she didn’t enjoy the longevity in her doubles career as other doubles greats, her peak was as dominant as anyone. In 2003, Clijsters and partner Ai Sugiyama reached the top of the doubles game in convincing fashion.
They finished the year as the World No. 1 team with a 46-6 record and six titles. In the middle of the year, they went on a 22-0 run winning back-to-back majors at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and capturing the Acura Classic title. This impressive run included wins over the era’s top teams including Ruano Pascual/Suarez, Davenport/Raymond and Black/Likhovtseva.
If Clijsters had continued playing doubles regularly, there’s no doubt she would have been a pillar at the top of the game regardless of her partner.
4. Elena Vesnina
- Career Doubles Record: 435-229 (65%)
- Career Doubles Titles: 19 (3 majors)
- Career High Doubles Ranking: 1
Many fans thought Elena Vesnina left the game for good in November 2018 when she gave birth to her daughter Elizaveta in November 2018. But after seeing other players return to tour as new moms, Vesnina even surprised herself with a brief comeback.
The last leg of her career from 2019-2021 included a Wimbledon runner-up performance in 2021 and an Olympic silver medal in mixed doubles at the Tokyo Olympics.
Vesnina was a constant force at the top of the women’s doubles game for many years in an extremely competitive era with the likes of the Williams sisters, Martina Hingis, Lisa Raymond, and many other accomplished doubles players who were longtime rivals.
While Vesnina enjoyed an incredible doubles career, fans who followed her results closely know that nerves sometimes got the best of her in the biggest moments. As a result, her record in finals suffered.
She finished a career 19-26 (including 3-8 in the majors) in women’s doubles. In mixed doubles, while Vesnina captured one major, she fell short five other times in the finals with a 1-5 mixed finals record.
5. Kveta Peschke
- Career Doubles Record: 662-387 (63%)
- Career Doubles Titles: 36 (1 major)
- Career Doubles High Ranking: 1
A veteran doubles player who kept a relatively low profile, 46-year-old Kveta Peschke’s longevity and consistency were the hallmarks of her doubles career.
Peschke was a top doubles stalwart for nearly two decades who enjoyed success with a wide range of partners. 2011 marked the pinnacle of her career where she reached doubles world no. 1, won her first (and only) women’s doubles major title at Wimbledon, and was named WTA Doubles Team of the Year alongside Srebotnik.
Peschke finished in the top 10 for ten consecutive years from 2006-2015 and qualified for the WTA Finals three times (twice with Srebotnik and once with Rennae Stubbs). Peschke’s long list of career partners included Srebotnik, Stubbs, Demi Schuurs, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Lisa Raymond and Nicole Melichar-Martinez.
Her last professional doubles match came at the 2022 Credit One Charleston Open, where she lost in the first round but was celebrated by the WTA afterward for her impressive 29-year career on tour.
6. Katarina Srebotnik
- Career Record: 754-421 (64%)
- Career Titles: 39 (1 major)
- Career High Ranking: 1
One of Slovenia’s greatest tennis talents, 41-year-old and former world No. 1 Katarina Srebotnik celebrated her illustrious doubles career in a retirement ceremony at the 2022 Zavarovalnica Sava Portoroz event in Slovenia. During the ceremony, she shared many personal reflections and also received video congratulatory messages from former partners Ai Sugiyama and Kveta Peschke.
“In my career I experienced many beautiful and some less pleasant moments, and today’s farewell day is definitely one of the most difficult ones. Although I knew that this moment is inevitable for every athlete, it took me quite some time to accept it deep inside. This decision was difficult for me mainly because tennis has been my great passion since the age of 7, and because it has given me so many extraordinary and unforgettable moments, which I will cherish forever. I can proudly say that even at the age of 41, my feelings remain the same. This is also the main reason why I competed for so long – not because I had to, but because I enjoyed every second of it. And to be completely honest, I will miss competitive tennis.”Katarina Srebotnik
Alongside long-time partner Kveta Peschke, Srebotnik’s best career doubles moment came in 2011 when she reached World No. 1 and captured the 2011 Wimbledon trophy. She also finished doubles runner-up at three different majors – 2006 U.S. Open with Dinara Safina, 2007 Roland Garros with Sugiyama and 2010 Roland Garros with Peschke.
Srebotnik’s doubles accomplishments weren’t limited to women’s doubles. She racked up five mixed doubles majors that included three Roland Garros titles, one Australian Open title, and one U.S. Open title. She always seized the opportunity to play for Slovenia when the occasion arose with three Olympic appearances (2000, 2004, 2012) and numerous Fed Cup appearances from 1997 – 2012.
Did you know Katarina Srebotnik was honored by the Guinness Book of World Records for winning titles in women’s singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles at the first professional events she played in as a teenager?
7. Lucie Hradecka
- Career Record: 622-291 (68%)
- Career Titles: 26 (2 majors)
- Career High Ranking: 4
It was fitting that 37-year-old Lucie Hradecka ended her doubles career the same year as longtime partner and fellow countrywoman, Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova (featured below). It was also fitting that, in one of the final events of her career, Hradecka famously defeated career doubles rivals Serena and Venus in the first round of the 2022 U.S. Open alongside young Czech talent Linda Fruhvirtova in a packed house in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Throughout her career, “The Silent H’s” faced off against the Williams sisters numerous times on the sport’s biggest stages. They finished runner-up to Serena/Venus at Wimbledon twice in the same year, first at the 2012 Wimbledon Championships and again at the 2012 Olympics, where the Czechs took home the silver medal.
Apart from her doubles rivalry with the Williams Sisters, Hradecka racked up two doubles majors with Hlavackova at 2011 Roland Garros and 2013 U.S. Open. She also enjoyed success in mixed doubles, winning the 2013 U.S. Open with fellow Czech Frantisek Cermak and capturing the Bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics with Radek Stepanek.
The Olympics weren’t the only time she represented the Czech flag in stride. Hradecka was an integral part of a Czech dynasty that won five Fed Cup titles in six years between 2011-2016. At the end of her career, she was intentional about empowering the next generation of young Czech stars.
“It’s time to say goodbye and put the focus on the younger ones. I’m glad to share my experience. If they learn something from me and one day they remember it, that makes me happy.”Lucie Hradecka
8. Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova
- Career Record: 522-246 (68%)
- Career Titles: 27 (2 majors)
- Career High Ranking: 3
The other half of the “Silent H’s” doubles duo with Hradecka, Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova was the yin to Hradecka’s yang. Together, the Czech duo took home two major titles, two major runner-up performances, and a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Outside of her partnership with Hradecka, Hlavackova found continued success. She finished runner-up at the 2017 Australian Open with Peng Shuai and also won the 2017 year-end WTA Championships with Timea Babos. On the mixed doubles court, she captured the 2013 U.S. Open title with ATP doubles legend, Max Mirnyi.
She also contributed to two of the Fed Cup titles won by the Czech team between 2011-2016. This Czech dynasty was one of the strongest eras in Czech tennis history with a deep roster of top players including Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, Lucie Safarova, Barbora Strycova, and Kveta Peschke.
Which Doubles Players Will Retire Next?
Who do you think will be next to hang up their racquets in 2023? Follow the Tennis Tribe on social media for up-to-date doubles coverage throughout the year.