Gonzo retired from tennis, after losing to Nicolas Mahut of France in a 3rd set TB, when he DF-ed on match point. Thus ended a career that saw him win an Olympic medal of every color and reach the AO final in ’07, after a truly astounding run. His fiery FHs, along with his no-B.S. temperament, underneath which lay a classy competitor, were a great addition to the game. The way he became the face of Chilean tennis, in the wake of Marcelos Rios’ career, is a great testament to his achievements and the memories he brought to the game.
To the unfortunate dismay of many of Gonzo’s fans, there was no television coverage of Gonzo’s last match. Apparently, there was an ESPN camera stationed nearby, so there is a tiny sliver of hope that one day the match will available for viewing.
After the match, Gonzo shook Mahut’s hand and instead of shaking umpire Carlos Bernardes’ hand, as is the norm, he hugged Bernardes instead:
At Marat Safin’s last match at Paris-Bercy in 2009, I remember the commentator mentioning that Bernardes had specifically requested to ump the Safin match, knowing that it would likely be Safin’s last competitive match on tour. Bernardes’ request was granted and he ump-ed that match, where Safin lost to DelPo and closed the doors on his career. I wonder if Bernardes had put in a request to ump Gonzo’s last match?
Though it wasn’t televised, which is truly baffling, there was a farewell ceremony for Gonzo at the end. Fans wearing t-shirts printed with each letter of the word “GRACIAS” cheered on their man Gonzo, with the “Chi chi chi Le le le” chant.
There was a video tribute: Fed, Rafa, Muzz, the Bryan brothers, Djokovic and Nalbandian expressed their farewells to Gonzo.
The fact that the video tribute for Gonzo (who is 31 y.o.) is book-ended by Fed and Nalby (both 30 yrs-old), each of whom played against Gonzo as juniors, underscores the passing of time. The next 12-24 months will likely see some of my favorite players born in ’80-’82 call it a career. I may or may not have teared up a little when Nalby spoke: he speaks some heartfelt words in Spanish to Gonzo, whom he’s known since he was a chiquito. It’s the “chicquito” part that kills me — why can’t they stay put as the newly minted Chiquitos-2-Hombres forever?:
Gonzo acknowledged the end of his great career, just minutes after his match against Mahut. In the most Gonzo-like fashion:
Game over! !—
fernando gonzalez (@elfergonzalez) March 22, 2012
To finish, a clip of Gonzo’s final farewell speech — the Miami crowd, so boisterous and filled with South American fans, gave him a worthy farewell:
For old time’s sake, Juan Carlos Ferrero & Gonzo when they were young: