Ferreira says goodbye after quick loss to Hewitt
Posted: Wednesday September 1, 2004 8:07PM; Updated: Wednesday September 1, 2004 8:07PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- After 15 years of professional tennis and 56 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, Wayne Ferreira remembers the trivia as much as the 15 career titles.
"I've beaten Daniel Vacek 14 times," the 32-year-old South African said laughing about the Czech veteran who last played in 2003. "I keep telling him that every time I see him."
Ferreira said goodbye to the men's tour Wednesday following a 1-6, 5-7, 4-6 first-round loss to No. 4 seed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia at the U.S. Open, a match that took just over an hour and a half.
With his 33rd birthday looming in two weeks, Ferreira said a Davis Cup tie against Greece later this month in Pretoria will be his last competitive match.
"I've had a bad shoulder for the last 10 months. Every time I wake up, a different thing hurts," he said. "I just thought maybe it was more important to be able to walk when I'm 50."
Besides his titles -- including two in Masters events -- an Olympic tennis silver medal in doubles, and nearly $10 million in tour earnings, Ferreira reached the semifinals at the 1992 Australian Open, his best performance at Grand Slam event. He reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open the same year.
But he seemed most proud in his 511 career victories of having beaten nearly everybody he played at least once and being able to tick off the names of his victims, including some of the best in the game: Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker.
"I've played against two generations," Ferreira said. "I've got a lot of good stories to keep dinner conversations going for a long time."
The one against Borg, though, might have to come with an asterisk.
"It was in Monte Carlo, during his comeback," he said sheepishly. "But hey, a win is a win."
One of the gaps in his career was an inability to beat Andre Agassi.
"I'd come into a match (against Agassi) playing really well, and then walk off the court saying, 'I really stink,"' he said. "I'd tell my wife that I was playing Agassi, and she'd say, 'Oh, so you'll be home tomorrow."'
Having worked with the University of California tennis team near his home, Ferreira is hoping to continue on the coaching side of the game, possibly with players from his native South Africa. A lack of money and infrastructure there, limiting players ability to travel for tournaments, hurts their development, he said.
This week, he was just happy to have his family to see his final match, especially his 5-year-old son Markus.
"He doesn't really understand," Ferreira said. "But he knows enough to tell me that I lost today."