|Knowles: “There is no doubt that the end is near”|
Guardian Sports Reporter
Published: Apr 13, 2012
With a limited playing schedule, Bahamian tennis professional Mark Knowles hope to make the best of every ball served when he steps on the court. But this has become a difficult task lately for the sole Bahamian playing on the international tour.
From the start of the season Knowles has experienced early dismissals from tournaments. His latest came two days ago at the US Men’s Clay court championships in Houston. Partnering with Xavier Malisse, the duo were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Treat Conrad Huey and Dominic Inglot 3-6, 6-4 and 10-8. Knowles said: “It was a tough match. A match we shouldn’t have lose. We started off well. We played a good first set. We got a little unlucky and went on to lose the second set, so it was a little bit disappointing.”
The tournament staged in Houston is the ninth for Knowles, who has a 5-4 win/loss record. The up and down season which started in late 2010 has seen Knowles fall in the ranking charts. He was once rated among the top five doubles players, but is now slated at 69.
“It started out extremely well obviously when I won San Jose my first tournament back,” said Knowles. “Since then things have gone a little bit more slowly. I didn’t do as well in the Masters Series events in the US, as I would have liked and obviously I was looking to win this tournament as well. So yes, I had a couple ups and downs.”
The see-saw battle has also force Knowles to switch up partners. His most steady sidekick is Malisse. The two are expected to join forces once again at the Open de Nice Cote D’Azur and the French Open. These two tournaments will be held in May. Knowles plan to take the rest of the month off until then.
He said: “I am not so sure if I am going to play with a steady partner. Obviously Xavier and I, when we can get in we are going to play together. I feel like we have had good results together. It has been a little bit tricky, my rankings dropped so I probably don’t have the flexibility that I usually have in getting in the big events. So that is why I had to play with a couple different partners in Indian Wells and Miami.
“I think I need to get back to trying to win a few more tournaments and getting my ranking back up. Obviously it puts a little bit more pressure on myself because I am not playing a full schedule, just playing much more limited schedules so I can spend much more time with family and being home. That kind of complicates when I lose in the quarterfinals like I did in Houston last (Thursday) night. Those are the events that I need to win in order to maintain that limited schedule.”
Knowles, who will celebrate his 41st birthday in September said he is in total different place especially with his career. The devoted father of three has limited his touring in order to spend time with his family. He calls it ‘control’.
“The last couple of years has been more about my family,” Knowles added. “I am still trying to do the very best that I can when I am on the court, trying to win as many matches in as many tournaments as possible. Obviously I haven’t won as many tournaments in the last couple of years that I was use to winning, probably for the majority of my career. That should be expected. I am 40 years old now. I have been playing for 20 years on the tour.”
Even though he considers this “the icing on the cake,” Knowles is not about to call it quits. He calls himself fortunate, to still be playing and winning tournaments. And said “as long as I can do those things, I will continue to play. There is no doubt that the end is near. The end has been near for a while. Every athlete towards the end of their career is always trying to figure out when it is the best time to retire. It is hard to say because when you win tournaments and go on top you feel like wow I can still play so it is hard to walk away.
“When you are not playing that well it is probably easier to walk away. But for me I think that I will have to base it entirely on my enjoyment. Whether I enjoy competing and still playing at a high level. Obviously I can still play at a high level and I still enjoy competing. But the end is very near. I am not really sure when.”