Throughout her career, Lisa Raymond operated under the notion there was no timeline to how long she planned to play, insisting she would just know when she was ready to say goodbye.
Having recently turned 42, Raymond, an 11-time Grand Slam doubles champion, acknowledged that her clock is finally ticking down toward retirement. Fans at this year’s US Open should put on their party hats and get ready to celebrate Raymond’s spectacular career, as she’s selected this US Open as the backdrop for her farewell sendoff.
“Everything is a bonus right now,” said Raymond, when revealing at Wimbledon her plan to hang up her racquets after the US Open.
It’s no secret that Raymond’s been easing toward her grand finale this whole season, curtailing her tournament schedule to just 11 WTA events, inclusive of this final US Open. Her best 2015 results have remained solid, reaching the Indian Wells semifinals with Samantha Stosur and the Wimbledon quarterfinals with Cara Black, two of the prominent players she has competed with during her 22-year career.
Recent times haven’t provided smooth sailing for the Philadelphia area native, which she admitted has taken a toll. A player likes to concentrate on the important stuff, i.e., everything that is happening on the court. But when you’re constantly having to be concerned about the details to getting on the court, and how it’s going once you’re playing, it becomes something of a worry.
“Believe me, when I’m out there, I’m not carefree about anything,” Raymond said. “In my head I’ve got my arms around it (retiring). I’m very happy knowing it is coming to an end. There’s other things I’d like to do. For me to be a top doubles player, to win Slams, that’s the only thing I want to do. I don’t want to be just average; I’ve always said that. You’ve got to put in the time. You’ve got to get the right partner and be consistent and play every week. I don’t have that right now. I haven’t had that for over a year and change.”
The 5-foot-5 scrapper, a former world No. 1 in doubles, simply isn’t willing to accept being less than her best.
And Raymond’s best was about as good as it gets. She won four singles titles and attained a career-high singles ranking of No. 15 in October 1997. But her biggest successes came in doubles. She won 79 career women’s doubles titles, including six Grand Slam trophies with three different partners – three with Renee Stubbs, two with Samantha Stosur and one with Leizel Huber. She also captured five mixed doubles titles at the majors with three different partners – her last three with Mike Bryan, and one each with Leander Paes and Patrick Galbraith. Another major highlight of Raymond’s career was teaming with Mike Bryan to win the 2012 Olympic mixed doubles bronze medal in London, her lone visit to the Olympic podium.
“I felt like I had accomplished so much in my career: Slams, No. 1, championships in doubles, but there was one thing that was always missing and that was a medal from the Olympics,” she said. “Even though it wasn’t gold, to be able to win my final match at the Olympics with [Mike], it was just amazing, an amazing day for me.”
The good news for Raymond is she won’t be heading into an unknown abyss when she completes her career. She’s already segued into a coaching role as part of the triumvirate team of Lindsay Davenport and Davenport’s husband, Jon, who currently guide 19th-seeded Madison Keys.
“I have some things at home that I’d like to do,” she said. “Also, I’ve been helping Madison when Lindsay and Johnny can’t help, so obviously being a part of that team is very exciting. So I’m going to continue doing some stuff with her. So it’s kind of a nice transition out of the game.”
In fact, Raymond’s latest involvement with Keys will also figure prominently in marking the end of her playing days. They are partnering together in the US Open women’s doubles event. Their first-round match will be against Kirsten Flipkens and Laura Robson.
Maturity has enabled Raymond to grasp that the conclusion of a tennis career comes differently for each person. One might envision the perfect walk into the sunset, but it rarely happens that way.
“You know, I think we all have this fairytale in our head of how it’s all going to end,” she said, smiling. When you’ve had the success that I’ve had, you all want to go out like Sampras did, playing your last match and winning a Grand Slam. That’s not going to happen for all of us. And I think once you get your arms around that, it kind of takes a little bit of the pressure off and you can kind of take a breath and say, ‘OK, maybe there will be another way that I finished.’”
And that way will reveal itself at this US Open as we wish Raymond well in the next chapter of her life to be played off the competitive court.