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Sugiyama preparing for retirement

Kyodo News

Amid a frustrating slide in form that has seen her plunge to No. 71 in the world rankings, Ai Sugiyama said Wednesday she has decided to end her playing career at the end of this season.

The Toray Pan Pacific Open getting underway on Sept. 27 at Ariake Tennis Forest Park will be the last tournament of Sugiyama’s career.

“I am normally the type that can picture what the near future holds but to be honest at this moment in time I can’t see myself competing next season,” said Sugiyama who was once the world No. 8.

“I knew that the moment I realized I could play well in fits and starts but not over the course of a season then it would be time to retire. Now I would like to give something back to tennis.”

Sugiyama’s women’s doubles campaign at the ongoing U.S. Open ended Monday after she and her partner Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia were knocked out in the third round.

Sugiyama has made a record 62 consecutive Grand Slam appearances.

She has struggled this season and lost in the first round of the U.S. Open women’s singles for the first time since her 1994 debut at the event.

Sugiyama turned pro at 17 and won the first of her six career singles titles at the 1997 Japan Open. She won 38 doubles titles including Grand Slam wins at the U.S. Open (2000), the French Open and Wimbledon (both 2003).