Retirement not looming for Jill Craybas
There was a thread a day or two ago about whether Jill would/should retire. Here is a story from last week's Bali tournament, where Jill says she's still enjoying the game.
Age shall not weary her: Craybas keeps going strong
Bruce Emond , The Jakarta Post , Nusa Dua, Bali | Thu, 09/11/2008 11:05 AM | Sports
In the sports world, the term "veteran" conjures up visions of a resilient battler soldiering on even as time and younger opponents march by.
At the age of 34, Jill Craybas hears the word used a lot to describe her continuing presence on the women's tennis tour.
But the American definitely does not feel that way. She believes some good years are still ahead of her in her career.
"It feels a bit strange when I hear that because from my standpoint I'm learning something new every week about playing and being on the tour, and getting better," Craybas said Tuesday after upsetting Canadian eighth seed Aleksandra Wozniak in the first round of the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic.
Giving up 13 years to her 21-year-old opponent, Craybas' experience told in the see-saw match. After losing the first set, she kept her cool, regrouped by mixing up the pace and watched as her younger opponent self-destructed in a flood of errors.
The 1996 NCAA champion is still getting results in singles and doubles.
After her eighth WTA Tour top 100 finish in 2007, she reached her first final in six years at Pattaya, losing a thriller to teenager Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland after holding match point.
She also won her third tour doubles title in Istanbul in May and has earnings of US$220,000 so far this year.
"On court, she is focused and persistent, and very patient," says Indonesian tennis observer Adji Soedibjo, who watched the Pattaya tournament. "Off court, she is one of the nicest and friendliest players."
Although her only title was the Japan Open in 2002, some of Craybas' most memorable career wins have been achieved in her 30s. She famously beat Serena Williams at the 2005 Wimbledon to reach the fourth round, her best ever Grand Slam showing, and the following year upset then world number 2 Kim Clijsters in Miami, when she reached her best singles ranking of 39th in the world.
The lithe and toned Craybas also says time spent in the gym has allowed her to compete in today's power game, especially standing a diminutive 1.6 meters and 56 kilograms next to the sport's towering glamazons of Maria Sharapova (1.88 m) and Ana Ivanovic (1.83 m).
In a David and Goliath-like contest, Craybas overcame tennis' tallest female player, the 1.9-meter Akgul Amanmarudova, in the Pattaya semifinal.
"It's what you read in the magazines, about eating well, exercising and taking care of yourself," says Craybas, currently ranked 76th in the world.
"And every time I have a little ache or pain I go to the trainer to get it checked out. I also think partially it's genetic, and some people are more prone to injury than others. But I take care of myself and when I need something worked on I do it."
Attention to physical fitness aside, Craybas' staying power is unusual in women's tennis today. There is a handful of women's tennis players aged over 30 -- Israel's Tzipora Obziler, 35, Japan's Ai Sugiyama, 33, Lindsay Davenport, 32, and Italy's Tathiana Garbin, 31, among them -- but the physical and mental demands of the game have led to a slew of early retirements. For example, Clijsters retired shortly before she turned 24, while Indonesia's Angelique Widjaja, who Craybas lost to in the 2002 French Open, has also given up the tour at the age of 23.
The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has responded by unveiling a streamlined calendar for 2009 to ensure players have more downtime for rest and recuperation.
Craybas points out she was already old in tennis years when she decided to commit to playing at the age of 23, after getting her degree in telecommunications from the University of Florida.
"A lot of these girls start so young, at 16 or 17, so by the time they're 25 they've been on the tour for eight or nine years," she says. "I started a bit later, so I think that by going to school I learned to be a bit more independent by being away from home. For me, that helped a lot mentally to stay stronger."
Although she lost a tough three-set struggle to Poland's Marta Domachowska on Wednesday, she is not ready to say when it will be time to bid goodbye to the tour.
"I take it day by day. I still love it, I still enjoy playing. When there comes a day when I don't enjoy it, then I'll give it up."