Tearful Pratt calls it quits
January 15, 2008 NICOLE Pratt, one of the stalwarts of Australian women's tennis, has played her last match.
"This is it," a tearful Pratt said after losing in the first round of the Australian Open.
"My last tournament, my last match."
The first to admit she was far from the best her country had produced, Pratt said she still achieved more than she thought she would in a career that started when she was 15.
"I pretty much did everything I could, I gave it everything I had," Pratt said.
Pratt's retirement came in her 50th grand slam tournament and 18th Australian Open, but it was far from a sudden decision.
One of the greatest tributes to the 34-year-old from Mackay in north Queensland is that she has been among the world's top 100 players for all but one of the past ten years and boasts an all-time high of 35.
The last match came against Russian 14th seed Nadia Petrova who inflicted a straight sets defeat on the Australian.
It was also indicative of what the diminutive Pratt has been up against for much of her 20-year career.
"I've been competing against that type of player for the past three or four years," she said.
"I've been able to match it physically even though I'm smaller because I use my speed."
But a knee injury and subsequent surgery late last year took away that asset, leaving Pratt more vulnerable to the modern style of player.
"I can't compete against those players with one-and-a-half legs," she said.
"There just comes a time.
"I always said that if I can't go out there and compete against the best players in the world and feel like I can win, then I'm not interested.
"That (performance) told me today."
Pratt had been an institution in Australian Fed Cup teams, not missing a year since 1998.
She had also represented Australian at he Sydney and Athens Olympic Games.
If there was a positive aspect to her retirement it is that it opens the door for a young Australian to not only graduate to the national stage, but to the top level of a game she said has become "stagnant".
"If an Australian player wants it bad enough, it's there," she said.
"The game is a little stagnant now ... the top players can be beaten."
Pratt won one singles title on the WTA tour - the Indian Open, and nine doubles titles.
Pratt will continue to do media work on television, but is hoping to coach a touring player.