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Retirement looming, new mom Huber focusing on a strong finish

June 5, 2013 05:38 PM
One of the world's top doubles players for the past decade, Liezel Huber has won five women's doubles Grand Slam titles and two mixed doubles Grand Slam titles.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
PARIS – Liezel Huber and her husband Tony adopted a baby boy last summer, and the 36-year-old U.S. Fed Cupper couldn’t be happier. Even when she should be sleeping, she is waking up to feed their son, Joshua. And even when Tony volunteers to feed him, she’s up warming up his bottle.
On Tuesday night in Paris, she got up frequently because Joshua was sick. She didn’t get much sleep, then went out and won a mixed doubles match with her partner Marcelo Melo over her former doubles partner Lisa Raymond and Raymond’s partner, Bruno Soares.
She went off court, fed Joshua again, changed his diaper, played with him, had a little something to eat, and because the matches at Roland Garros have been backed up due to rain in the first week, she had to go out and play again. This time she and Melo stretched Frantisek Cermak and Lucie Hradecka to a third-set super tie-break in the semifinals but eventually lost.
"At my age, it's the worst to play two matches in one day and my situation is more strenuous than other people, but I am not having a pity party here, it’s what I choose," Huber said. "But playing two matches at age 36, at the end of the second match, we just got overpowered. You can’t recover on the same day. Maybe you can from late night to the next day but you need those reserves built up in you."
Former doubles No. 1 Huber said that she is planning to retire soon. Prospective last events include either this year after the US Open, maybe after the fall season or possibly after the 2014 Australian Open because she would also like to travel Down Under to see friends.
"It is my last year because my son will be a year [old] at the US Open," she said. "It’s already hard to travel with him and my wrists are swollen because he’s already like 20 pounds. It’s an accumulation of things, but I wouldn’t change anything because he’s the best, happiest baby."
Huber, who owns 53 women’s doubles title, including five Grand Slam crowns, decided in the last few weeks that her priorities have changed and that Joshua comes first – before tennis.
"That's a struggle for me because there are not enough hours in a day to add more tennis even though I have managed to do it the last few weeks," she said. "I haven’t been happy with the way I’ve been playing, or the way I have been able to work out or have eaten something bad. My husband said, ‘Let me know if you are just out here to have a good time,’ but I am not like that because I want to win. So I’ve switched gears a little, but my son is still my main priority so it’s tough balance."
Huber is amazed that Kim Clijsters was able to come back and win the US Open after the birth of her daughter, but Clijsters was still not playing when Jada was as young as Huber’s son is now. Liezel and Tony travel with a nanny, but Liezel wants to do everything herself so she doesn’t use her nanny as much as she could.
Her former doubles partner, Cara Back, is also is traveling with a young child and doesn’t travel with a nanny; Black’s husband is Mr. Mom. Tony coaches Liezel in addition to putting in his Mr. Mom duties.
"I don't know how Cara does it," said Huber, who teamed with Black to win the 2008 US Open and with Raymond to take the title in Flushing Meadows in 2011. "We need to be able to go and do our work and not worry about what Joshua is doing now. It’s been a learning experience. But I am not going to be on the road forever because the boy is too busy and we don't have to be on the road, as we have a lot of other ventures."
Huber calls this the hardest year of her career. She hasn't had a regular doubles partner, as the woman he had planned to play with all year, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain, has been injured and now has decided to take a break. Martinez was nice enough to come to Paris and play with Huber, but they lost in the first round. Now Huber is on the hunt for a partner again and may play at Wimbledon with Spain’s Nuria Llagostera-Vives, who is coming off a wrist injury.
"It’s been tough," Huber said, reflecting on her professional year before focusing on the personal. "But we really have it pretty good."
Despite the ups and downs, Huber has no plans on giving up on the rest of the year. But she said that when she does finally zip up her racquet bag for good, she will miss the many friends she has made. Most of all, she will miss playing for the U.S. Fed Cup team, which sometime in the future she hopes to help out from the bench – anyway she can.
"I really loved it," said Huber, who has posted an 8-3 record for the U.S. squad. "Being part of Fed Cup defined my career."
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And for more Pro Tennis coverage, including coverage of Americans at the 2013 French Open, go to the USTA.com Pro Tennis page


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