12/1/12 2:09 PM | Ricky Dimon
The 2012 season saw the end of the road for several prominent ATP players. Tennistalk bids its second farewell to an owner of arguably the most ferocious forehand ever, Fernando Gonzalez.
Few opponents could handle Fernando Gonzalez's forehand, and--quite frankly--injuries couldn't stop it either. Gonzalez kept firing until the end, but myriad physical problems (mainly with hips and knees) started to derail his career when he turned 30 in the summer of 2010. He was outside the Top 500 at the beginning of 2011 and outside the Top 200 when this season began. At 31 years old and with an uncooperative body, the road back would have been too long. Gonzalez, though, was a human highlight reel all the way from start to finish.
A look back at Gonzalez's career:
Career-high ranking: 5
Grand slam finals: 1
ATP titles: 11
Olympic medals: 3 (gold in doubles, silver and bronze in singles)
Biggest win: 2007 Australian Open semifinals (d. Tommy Haas 6-1, 6-3, 6-1)
Heading into the Aussie Open five years ago, Gonzalez was ranked ninth in the world, had never been past the fourth round Down Under, and had never advanced past a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Thanks to his overpowering forehand, the Chilean was known to catch fire and produce flashes of unstoppable tennis. Never, however, did Gonzalez play better or more consistently than at this event. He was in devastating form in a quarterfinal destruction of Rafael Nadal and--facing the tough task of building on a groundbreaking win--he destroyed Haas in even more convincing fashion (one hour and 31 minutes) to reach the final.
Most heartbreaking loss: 2009 French Open quarterfinals (l. to Robin Soderling 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4)
Gonzalez officially came closest to winning a Grand Slam at the 2007 Australian Open, but he was a massive underdog against Roger Federer--who was in the absolute prime of his career. His best chance, by far, came at Roland Garros in 2009 when Nadal was already out of the tournament. Instead of facing the four-time defending champ in the quarterfinals, Gonzalez went up against Soderling. He showed signs of recovering from a two-set deficit by winning the third and fourth, but Soderling eventually prevailed after three hours and 28 minutes.
Last match: Sony Ericsson Open first round (l. to Nicolas Mahut 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3))
In some ways, Gonzalez bowed out unceremoniously--with a first-round loss that wasn't televised or even streamed anywhere in the world. But anyone who was at the Miami match knows better. A raucous, pro-Gonzalez, South American-heavy crowd was treated to a nail-biting, three-set night match between Gonzalez and Mahut. Both players delivered clutch tennis to stay alive in the third set, including three straight aces by Mahut down break point and three match points saved by Gonzalez--two with swinging-forehand volleys. It eventually ended in a decisive tiebreaker on a Gonzalez double-fault.
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