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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 19:28 GMT 20:28 UK
Clay-court legend Bruguera retires
Sergi Bruguera
Bruguera inspired a new generation of Spanish players
Double French Open champion Sergi Bruguera has announced his decision to retire at the age of 31.

The Catalan player, who won back-to-back titles at Roland Garros in 1993 and '94 and 14 ATP titles, led a renaissance in Spanish men's tennis.

He has blamed recurrent injuries for his retirement after almost 15 years as a professional.

"Tennis has been my life...but the moment has arrived to say goodbye," Bruguera said in a statement released to the media ahead of the Barcelona Open final.

"Injuries have ruled me out of competition for too long in a sport where physical condition is basic and you need the rhythm of match play to maintain your form."

Albert Costa, one of the many Spanish men to follow in Bruguera's footsteps on the world's clay courts, paid tribute to his fellow Catalan.

I no longer have the strength to struggle on a daily basis with all the training, travelling and tension of the matches
Sergi Bruguera

"He's a truly great champion," said Costa after losing Sunday's Barcelona Open final to Gaston Gaudio of Argentina.

"For us it's like Boris Becker retiring in Germany. Bruguera set the standard for men's tennis in Spain."

Bruguera's first French Open crown, which came with a final victory over double champion Jim Courier, made him the first Spanish man to win a grand slam since Manuel Orantes won the US Open title in 1975.

He successfully defended his title the following year, beating countryman Alberto Berasategui in the final, and reached the semi-final in 1995 before going down to Michael Chang.

But his career suffered a serious setback that December when he damaged ankle ligaments and his only real highlight in '96 was a silver medal at the Atlanta Olympics.

He returned in 1997 to reach the French Open final again, losing to Gustavo Kuerten, but he suffered further problems the following year with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Little success

Since then there has been little in the way of success and it is now eight years since he won the last of his ATP titles in Prague in 1994.

"I've tried to come back after various periods of recovery but I think this is the time to rest," he explained.

"Mentally, I no longer have the strength to struggle on a daily basis with all the training, the travelling and the tension of the matches.

"I now want to enjoy my private life."

While Bruguera himself has struggled for form and fitness in the last few years, an outstanding group of clay-court players have followed in his wake and Spain is now arguably the strongest nation in the men's game.

Carlos Moya won the men's title at Roland Garros in 1998, beating countryman Alex Corretja in the final, and in 2000 Spain won the Davis Cup for the first time, winning all their matches on clay.

Last year, seven Spanish men reached the third round of the French Open, equalling the country's Roland Garros record of 1995, and Corretja once again reached the final, losing to an inspired Kuerten.

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