Lisa Raymond will be 43 in August. The University of Florida NCAA Champion has been asked, let’s say more than a couple times, when she plans to retire.
The answer? It’s complicated.
“Let’s just get through next week,” Raymond told the Miami press two years ago. “Then, I have no idea. I have said I will stay out here if I feel like I can compete at a high level and win tournaments.”
Forty-three is up there as far as age is concerned on the WTA Tour. But Raymond doesn’t seem ready to walk away. She has mentioned she might have to go unless she can find partners, or a partner that would be willing to stick by her side for some – or all – of a season.
Raymond found that person at the start of 2013 — Samantha Stosur — on the heels of the American’s split with Liezel Huber.
Raymond and Stosur tore through the doubles scene between 2005 and 2011, winning the US Open in 2005, and going 64-13 in 2006 alone. That year they won 10 WTA doubles titles, including Roland Garros and the WTA Championships.
The Roland Garros title elevated Raymond even higher in the record books, as it allowed her to complete the ever-elusive career Grand Slam. The following year — 2007 — was her last to compete on a singles court. The results are proof her decision was a sound one. Since turning pro in 1993, she has won 79 WTA doubles titles, including six majors in women’s doubles and five in mixed doubles.
During a 39-week span in 2006 and 2007, Raymond and Stosur shared the number-one ranking on the WTA Tour. Their 2013 reunion, then, was one of proven talent, friendship and a mutual desire to excel at a game normally left at the sidelines by media.
Then Stosur injured her calf muscle a week before last year’s Sony Open. The duo was spent before half the season had passed.
Never fear, Octagon Management stepped in and suggested that Laura Robson, one of their players, hook up with Raymond in Miami. The partnership clicked so well that the wildcards found themselves in the final, ultimately losing to a more seasoned team of Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik.
“Two weeks ago I was in a dire situation as far as doubles partners, and didn’t even know if I was going to play here because of the situation with Sam and her pulling out with the calf,” Raymond told the press, the afternoon of the Miami final. “Fortunately we’re represented by the same management company, so our agents got together. You could call it beginner’s luck, but I think it’s a team that plays really well together. And, we’ve proven that this week.”
In 2015, with Stosur’s calf issue remedied and Raymond still without a regular partner, the two decided to make a go of it once again. Their first tournament was Indian Wells. The results were good, losing to eventual champions Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza in the semifinals.
“It’s been a fun week getting back on the court with Sam,” Raymond told the WTA prior to their semifinal match. “We’ve had so much success together and we’re such good friends.”
Like the tennis world at large, Stosur and Raymond have made the trip from the Coachella Valley to South Florida for The Miami Open, again unseeded. And, again, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza are seeded No. 1 in the women’s doubles draw. The two teams, though, are on opposite sides, which could mean a final showdown.
But that’s many rounds away.
On Saturday, Stosur and Raymond kick off their bid at Crandon Park, playing Monica Niculescu and Alexandra Panova. Stosur and Raymond have experience against this team, playing them in the second round of Indian Wells, winning soundly, 6-3, 6-2.
The Grand Slam champs are sixth up on Court 7. Not exactly a show court, but it doesn’t matter. The dimensions of the court are universally the same.
Two of the four women in that match will have played singles prior to their doubles. Niculescu will have met Serena Williams in her first round match, which, quite ironically, is another second consecutive encounter. Stosur will have met the elder Williams’ sister, Venus, in her first round match.
Will the weight of the doubles outcome fall on the fresher women, Raymond and Panova? Not likely. The game is called doubles for a reason, as it depends on a partnership that combines skills and strategies. Stosur and Raymond are very familiar with that common ground. Their friendship adds an extra measure, which could make that narrowest of difference in the result.