Ranking the Biggest Flameouts in Tennis History

Michael Ann McKinlayContributor IIIJuly 14, 2012

Ranking the Biggest Flameouts in Tennis History

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    When a borderline tearful Andy Roddick turned around and blew one last kiss to the Centre Court crowd at this year's Wimbledon, many wondered if it was foreshadowing his retirement.

    His career, sadly, has been overshadowed by one of, if not, the greatest tennis player of the Open Era, Roger Federer. Since his 2009 Wimbledon final, Roddick has been in a downward spiral and will most likely end his career outside of the top 10, a place not common for Roddick.  

    Tennis pros, like Roddick, hope to go out with one last storyline, such as Pete Sampras, and ending their career with a final Grand Slam. Or Andre Agassi and his tearful goodbye in New York. 

    As Andy Roddick faces what we think is the final leg of his career—and ending without that one Wimbledon trophy—let's take a look at Grand Slam champions (sorry Dinara Safina) that had once tasted glory and are close to ending or have ended their career quietly. 

10. Juan Carlos Ferrero

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    Highlights: Grand Slam title, world No. 1, 16 career titles. 

    Career Defining Moment: After losing in the 2002 French Open final, Ferrero stormed back the following year to win his first and only Grand Slam in Paris. He also had a good run at the 2003 U.S. Open beating Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi before falling to Andy Roddick in the finals.

    Downfall: After his stellar 2003 season, Ferrero made the 2004 Australian Open semifinals facing Roger Federer, battling for the No. 1 ranking after Roddick was ousted by Safin.

    Federer beat him soundly, and Ferrero had various illnesses that plagued the rest of his 2004 season. Since then, he has not been in the top 10 or made a deep (semifinal or better) run at a Grand Slam.

    The 32 year-old is currently ranked outside the top 30.   

9. Michael Chang

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    Highlights: Grand Slam title, world No. 2, 34 career singles titles. 

    Career Defining Moment: Becoming the youngest men's Grand Slam Champion (17 years-old) at the 1989 French Open, beating Stefan Edberg in five sets.

    Downfall: Although Chang would make three other Grand Slam finals in the 1990's, his career was similar to Roddick, being a top 10 player, but unable to win another Grand Slam. 

    He retired in 2003, just three years after his last ATP title and was ranked outside the top 100.     

8. Jim Courier

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    Highlights: Four Grand Slam titles, world No. 1 ranking, 23 career singles titles. 

    Career Defining Moment: Becoming the youngest man in the Open era to have made all four Grand Slam finals at 22 years and 11 months.

    Downfall: Jim Courier, like so many on this list, tasted victory very early in his career and couldn't live up to the expectations. Plus, guys named Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were emerging around his successful years.

    Courier was consistent in the big ATP tournaments, but after the 1996 French Open, failed to make the final eight at Grand Slams for the rest of his career.    

7. Amelie Mauresmo

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    Highlights: Two Grand Slam titles, silver medal, world No. 1, 25 career singles titles.  

    Career Defining Moment: After Justine Henin retired in the championship match to give Mauresmo her first Grand Slam title in Australia, Mauresmo beat Henin in three sets to win Wimbledon, and her second Grand Slam title that year.

    Downfall: After a stellar 2006 season, Mauresmo failed to get to a quarterfinal stage or later at a Grand Slam for the rest of her career.

    By 2007, she was out of the top five, and by her retirement year in 2009, she had lost confidence, something she struggled with throughout her career.  

6. Lleyton Hewitt

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    Highlights: Two Grand Slam titles, world No. 1 for two consecutive years, 29 career singles titles.  

    Career Defining Moment: Dismantling Pete Sampras at the 2001 US Open to win his first Grand Slam. 

    Downfall: Like Andy Roddick's bad timing, many could argue the same for Hewitt, having bad luck in being in the same era as Roger Federer.

    But unlike Roddick, Hewitt was able to enjoy two years as year ending world No. 1, plus two Grand Slam titles before the emergence of Federer.

    Hewitt, a scrappy player from Adelaide, Australia had multiple surgeries on his hip during the middle and latter part of his career and is currently ranked outside the top 200.

    Retirement is probably right around the corner for Hewitt.   

5. Justine Henin

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    Highlights: Seven Grand Slam titles, world No. 1, 43 career singles titles, gold medal.   

    Career Defining Moment: Defeating Serena Williams in the semifinals and going on to win the 2003 French Open, becoming the first Belgian to win a Grand Slam.  

    Downfall: When Henin first retired in 2008, it came while she was world No. 1 and a week before the French Open, a place where she had not lost since 2004. It was a shock to say the least, with her reasoning being she wanted a break from tennis and to focus on her charity.

    Henin came back to the tour in 2010, and reached the Australian Open final, losing to Serena Williams. Although she would win two WTA titles, Henin failed to reach the quarterfinals of the French Open and Wimbledon.

    While at Wimbledon, she injured her elbow that led to her second retirement in late January 2011. Henin was not the dominant player of the past when she came back to the tour.

4. Marat Safin

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    Highlights: Two Grand Slam titles, world No. 1, 15 career singles titles. 

    Career Defining Moment: After defeating Roger Federer in an epic semifinal, Safin finally won the Australian Open after making the finals in 2002 and 2004. 

    Downfall: Being a hothead really affected Safin's performance throughout his career, known for his frequent racquet abuse in matches.

    A USA Today article said that his early success was "the best and worst thing that happened" to him.

    Although a tough customer to any player in a tournament, Safin ended his career outside the top 50, and losing at his last Grand Slam (the U.S. Open) in the first round. 

3. Martina Hingis

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    Highlights: Five Grand Slam titles, world No. 1, 43 career singles titles. 

    Career Defining Moment: Backed up a successful 1996 season by winning the 1997 Australian Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open titles and made the French Open finals. She was 16 years old at the time.

    Downfall: Hingis first retired in 2003 because of injuries and pain, but came back on tour in 2006 after successful matches against top-100 ranked opponents.

    Hingis had success in 2006, ending the year as world. No. 7. However, more injuries plagued her 2007 season.

    Hingis tested positive for cocaine in November 2007, and she retired again. Although she claimed innocence to the positive test, she was handed a two-year ban and the drug charge put a negative light on the Swiss' overall career.    

2. Jennifer Capriati

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    Highlights: Three Grand Slam titles, world No. 1, gold medal, 14 career singles titles. 

    Career Defining Moment: After overcoming drug and shoplifting problems from her teenage years, Capriati was able to win her first Grand Slam title in Australia, 11 years after she first emerged on the WTA tour.

    Downfall: Capriati literally fell off the tennis map after the 2004 U.S. Open, and has not competed in a WTA match since losing to Vera Zvonareva in the 2004 fall season due to shoulder and wrist injuries. 

    Despite this bad break, later this month, Capriati will be induced into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.     

1. Tracy Austin

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    Highlights: Two Grand Slam titles, world No. 1, 30 career singles titles. 

    Career Defining Moment: Becoming the youngest U.S. Open women's champion at 16 years old by defeating Chris Evert in straight sets.

    Downfall: Injuries plagued the young rising star, specifically back injuries that ended her career early.

    She attempted multiple comebacks in the late 1980's and early 1990's but couldn't repeat her champion form at Slams or against top players. She retired in 1994.