Little by little, Rajeev Ram could feel the end coming. Last year the 33 year old played both singles and doubles at tournaments, but in practices, he couldn’t push himself as much as he would have liked. Little injuries popped up here and there, and he had so much success in doubles with Raven Klaasen, including a run to the 2016 Nitto ATP Finals title match, that Ram started playing singles less and less.
“I had a great year last year in singles even and in doubles. But I could just feel the wear and tear starting to take its toll,” said Ram, who reached the Delray Beach Open singles final and won two doubles titles last year.
Ram wants to continue lifting trophies with Klaasen, which is why he will solely focus on doubles and retire from singles competition. The two-time Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open champion played his final singles match in Newport.
“You grow up trying to be a singles player as a first thought and that’s what I have devoted my whole career to, up until now. It’s a chapter that’s ending and I definitely feel very privileged to end it here,” Ram told ATPWorldTour.com in Newport. “I’ve actually played this tournament every year since I’ve been a pro, since 2004. I can’t say that about anywhere else. It’s special. I’ve had two singles titles here, [two] doubles titles, and a number of great wins, and to top it off with playing my last singles match.”
Ram, who partnered with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi to win the Newport doubles title on Saturday, would have preferred a better ending to his singles career. He fell in the first round to Aussie qualifier Matthew Ebden, who plays for his first ATP World Tour title on Sunday against John Isner.
“I wasn’t doing well, but then I just stopped and thought about it for a minute. It still didn’t go my way, but really I just enjoyed the fact that I got to play on the Stadium Court again here, in front of these fans and so many familiar faces over the years. It’s just really special,” said Ram, who had shared his retirement plans ahead of time with tournament director Todd Martin, who granted him a wild card.
Yet the final loss, Ram should leave his singles pleased with what he accomplished. He has surpassed any expectations he had for his career when he was a child. Ram didn’t even take tennis seriously until he was 15.
Yet the 6’4” right-hander went onto enjoy a successful collegiate and professional career. At the University of Illinois, he was part of the 2003 national championship team and also won the 2003 NCAA doubles title.
On the ATP World Tour, he reached a career high of No. 56 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and won two ATP World Tour titles – 2009 Newport and 2015 Newport.
“Rajeev has had a great career, especially in doubles, but he’s also has a very good singles career. He’s won two ATP titles, not many people can say that,” Isner told ATPWorldTour.com. “He’s done a lot with his game and he’s got a very long doubles career to look forward to.”
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“This venue is a little different than most,” Ram said. “It’s a low-bouncing grass court, which apparently was what it used to be like in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and I developed my game through that style; it’s how I felt the best and I felt the most comfortable playing.”
Casual tennis fans might look at Ram’s age – 33 – and think about another 30-something – 35-year-old Roger Federer – and wonder if the American is leaving years on the court. But Ram has some breaking news for everyone: Federer is a unique breed.
“If we all were comparing ourselves to Roger, I think we’d all feel badly about what we did in life. He’s a special case,” Ram said. “And it’s not like I’m stopping completely. I feel like I have a lot of goals I want to achieve in the doubles game and a great partner at the moment. We’ve had a good couple years together, and I just feel like it’s time to fully focus on that.”