Photo: Paul ZimmerMardy Fish (USA), Nicolas Massu and Fernando Gonzalez (CHI)
Nicolas Massu has announced that he is retiring from professional tennis after being “exhausted from the effort it takes to be an elite sportsman”.
The Chilean, who reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 9, will be best remembered for his staggering performance at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, where he shot to fame by winning singles gold and doubles gold alongside compatriot Fernando Gonzalez.
"My Olympic medals are the greatest things this sport has given me,” said Massu. “It's something I’m very proud to be able to share with my kids and tell them I'm in my country’s history.”
Massu, who was not known outside of the tennis fraternity, became a household name after defeating Mardy Fish in an exhilarating gold medal match at the Athens Olympics.
The man from Vina del Mar stormed through the men’s singles draw, accounting for two former world No. 1s, Gustavo Kuerten and Carlos Moya, in the early rounds. After beating Taylor Dent in the semifinals, he found himself up against Fish in the final, and it took all his effort to come from behind and win an epic encounter 63 36 26 63 64.
And there was more to come from Massu. After his compatriot Fernando Gonzalez overcame Dent to claim bronze in the singles, the Chilean pair teamed up to win the doubles gold medal. The Chileans again trailed by two-sets-to-one in the final and again found a way back, eventually overcoming German duo Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuettler 62 46 36 76(7) 64.
Massu’s retirement signals the end of an era for Chilean tennis. His two gold medals are his country’s only Olympic golds and his nation awaits to see who will fill his and Gonzalez’s rather large shoes.
"With my retirement we close two incredible decades for our sport,” said Massu. “Marcelo Rios, Fernando Gonzalez and I contributed to put Chile's name at the top. Now we are in a transition period and others will have to lead the way to bring joy to the people, with the most successful sport in Chile's history. I only pray that no comparisons arise between us and that future generations are not given undue pressure to succeed.”
Massu added: “My country can be sure that I hit each ball with all my soul and I tried to represent Chile to the fullest. I will miss the adrenaline of the Davis Cup, the ‘chi, chi, chi,’ and the ‘Let’s go Nico!’ chants."