September 30, 2023

Open Court


The end for Mirnyi, Schnyder and Jovanovic

At this time of the year, players who toiled late into November are on the beach somewhere (usually, not exclusively, the Maldives).

But those who wrapped things up a bit earlier are already back into training for the 2019 season.

So for those in the twilight of their careers, it’s decision time about whether they can – want to – go through the grind one more time.

For longtime doubles star Max Mirnyi, 41, the answer was no.

It’s been a very tough choice to make considering that the game of tennis has been my life ever since I can remember myself. I am absolutely thrilled to have had a chance to enjoy this game for so long!” Mirnyi said in a statement.

“While competing for myself or representing my country I have always treated my profession with the highest honour and respect, worked at it as hard as I could and now, stepping away from the game, I have no regrets and feel nothing but joy. I have achieved far beyond what a little boy from Minsk, Belarus could dream about at the beginning of the road.”

Belarus’s statement is a document full of evidence about just how much of a village it takes to make a successful professional tennis player.

Solid singles to brilliant doubles

Before Mirnyi was a doubles specialist, he was a very good singles player, reaching the top 20 back in 2003 with one career title, in Rotterdam that year.

But it was in doubles that he found a lasting home. Even in 2018, which turned out to be his final season, he was more than competitive. With Philipp Oswald of Austria, he won two titles – on an indoor hard court at the New York Open, and on red clay in Houston in April.

They were titles No. 51 and No. 52 of his career. And among those Mirnyi thanks are the (exactly!) 100 doubles partners with whom he teamed up professionally through a 25-year career.

Oswald and Mirnyi also reached two finals: to open the season in Auckland, and to close out Mirnyi’s ATP Tour career in Moscow in October.

His final match was in Davis Cup, in late October against Slovakia.

Mirnyi won the French Open men’s doubles four times (twice with the just-retired Daniel Nestor, twice with Jonas Bjorkman) and the US Open men’s doubles twice (with Lleyton Hewitt and Mahesh Bhupathi).

He also won the 2007 US Open mixed doubles with a young Azarenka, and again in 2013 with Andrea Hlavackova. He won the mixed at Wimbledon in 1998 with Serena Williams, His mixed partners have included Williams, Martina Navratilova, Maria Sharapova (with whom he shares an agent), Anna Kournikova and Genie Bouchard.

A multi-faceted Mirnyi life

While he did this, Mirnyi also completed his law degree in 2008. As well, he married and had four children, now ranging in age between four and 13. Mirnyi also has been a UN AIDS ambassador, a Unicef goodwill ambassador, the vice-president of the Belarus federation, 

Mirnyi relocated to Bradenton, Fla. to train at the Bollettieri academy in 1992 – and never left.

He was the flagbearer for his country at the Olympics in London in 2012, and won gold in mixed doubles (breaking British hearts) with countrywoman Victoria Azarenka over Andy Murray and Laura Robson.

Comeback too tough for Jovanovski

After a long time out of the game with wrist and shoulder surgeries, 26-year-old Bojana Jovanovski (who added “Petrovic” during her injury break when she got married) came back to try it again in 2018.

It turns out her body just couldn’t withstand the training needed to get back to the level she was capable of. And so on Wednesday, she reluctantly announced her retirement.

“After a lot of thinking and numerous injuries and operations it was very hard for me to make a final decision, I am still very passionate about tennis and competing but my body can not follow. Since I can no longer train and play the way I used to, give my best and fulfill all professional goals I had no other option,” Jovanovski Petrovic wrote on Facebook.

“So far I dedicated all my life to tennis, training and competition, did my best as a player and achieved great results. Maybe I did not achieved the maximum of my potential but I’m not unhappy,” she added. “Tennis has given me a lot and enriched my life. I had a chance to travel the world, meet people and make friends for life. In the future tennis will remain a big part of my life. I’m not leaving for good and without a plan.”

The Serb’s first order of business is to finish her psychology degree, and then look to coaching. 

Return in 2018

Jovanovski Petrovic was ranked in the top 80 six consecutive seasons, with a peak at No. 32 in 2014, before the injuries hit.

After losing in the first round of the 2016 French Open to Agnieszka Radwanska, Jovanovski Petrovic didn’t play again until the first round of qualifying at the WTA Tour event in St. Petersburg in Feb. 2018.

She played sporadically after that (although she did play the full grass-court season). Her final match was a 6-2, 6-1 loss to Sabine Lisicki in the qualifying in Tianjin, China in September. Lisicki, a former Wimbledon finalist, has been dealing with her own injury issues and is out of the top 200.

Schnyder’s Part II also done


Another player who was gone for a significant period of time and returned was Patty Schnyder.


Schnyder, who turns 40 in a few weeks, retired after the 2011 French Open – and even got the big, awkward official ceremony at the end of that season at the WTA Tour Finals.

She reached No. 7 in singles, and also was a top-20 doubles player and a three-time Olympian.

The new mom returned in July, 2015 in small events in Europe. And in her fourth tournament back, she went from the qualifying to the title at a $10,000 ITF in Prague. Later that season, she went from the qualifying to the final at a $25,000 ITF in Bangkok, beating former top-30 player Kaia Kanepi in the final.

Back to the WTA Tour

In April, 2016, she made her first return appearance on the WTA Tour with a wild card in the Charleston qualifying. (Other than a pair of wild cards into her home-country WTA event in Gstaad, Schnyder effected this comeback largely on her own).

By Aug. 2017, her ranking back near the top 200, she returned to the Grand Slam level for the first time, losing in the second round of US Open qualifying.

Schnyder got as high as No. 139 this June. And at the US Open, she won three rounds in qualifying, and got to face old foe Maria Sharapova in the first round of the main draw.

Sharapova and Schnyder had met eight times before, going all the way back to 2004. But while Sharapova led the head-to-head 7-1, that was a deceiving stat. Six of the eight meetings went three sets – and even the two straight-sets Sharapova victories were 7-5, 7-5, and 7-5, 6-4.

Schnyder gave Sharapova all she could handle in the second set of a 6-2, 7-6 (6) defeat.

Ends it with a comeback victory

Her last Tour match was a loss to Varvara Lepchenko in Luxembourg in October.

But her final competitive match was a victory, as Schnyder won in the French Interclubs last Wednesday for Mihaela Buzarnescu’s team, St-Dié-des-Vosges.

It was, perfectly, an impressive comeback. Schnyder beat Spain’s Laura Pous-Tio 5-7, 7-6 (8), 6-2.

But with her ranking back down to No. 279, it was going to be another season of grinding down at the lower levels. As she turned 40, as she put it, it was time to try something new.

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