On 7th July 2012, Frederik Nielsen was on top of the world.
“It was one big ride of joy from start to finish,” recalls the 38-year-old of a manic Wimbledon fortnight as he and Brit Jonathan Marray came from nowhere to clinch the doubles title with a thrilling five-set win over Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau. “Playing with Jonny made it better because we got along well, and we were able to get the best out of each other.”
Fast forward 10 years and the Denmark Davis Cup captain announced his retirement from professional tennis after a second-round doubles defeat partnering Treat Huey at the 2022 Australian Open.
“I still loved the lifestyle of being a professional tennis player,” Nielsen told ATPTour.com this week. “But I didn’t have anything left to play for and it was the natural finishing of my career.
“Combined with the fact that I have a young kid, Ciara [Nielsen’s wife] has put a lot aside for my tennis and I look forward now to having her priorities at the top of the list.”
My time as a professional tennis player is up. It’s with disbelief I look back at my 20 years on tour. I’m leaving with pride and happiness over what turned out to be. Thank you to all the people I’ve shared time with that made it epic! I look forward to meeting up in the future!
— Frederik Nielsen (@freddienielsen) January 25, 2022
The Wimbledon win is inevitably a career highlight for Nielsen, who had always held a personal connection with the tournament. “I grew up coming to Wimbledon,” he said. “My grandfather [two-time singles finalist Kurt Nielsen] was a member there so he had access. I remember every morning I would look at the order of play, see what courts I was going to go to.
“Sometimes when I walked past a court that didn’t have a match on, I would put my hand on the grass to feel what it was like because I’d never played on a grass court, and I was just in awe of the entire experience and place. Every time I’ve come back, I’ve been able to appreciate the grandness of Wimbledon.”
Clinching a Grand Slam title helped push Nielsen to his career-high doubles ranking of 17 in the 2013 season and he also picked up two ATP Tour titles (Chennai 2014 with Johan Brunstrom, Munich 2019 with Tim Puetz), but the Dane is just as proud of his achievements on the singles court.
“When I started playing, I didn’t think I was going to be good enough to get one ATP [Ranking] point,” he said. “That never got lost on me, I was always able to remember where I came from and fully enjoy whatever the tour bought to me, whatever level I was playing.
“Qualifying for the Australian Open singles [in 2012] was huge. If you’re in the main draw of a slam that’s the pinnacle of tennis. I never really expected to do it, so to get that chance was special. A lot of hard work over many years and I was able to play a slam, that was big for me.”
Nielsen was also a Davis Cup stalwart for Denmark, playing in 45 ties between 2003 and 2021. “We were lucky to have some years where we had success,” he said. “It culminated by playing a full-strength Spain team at home. The camaraderie with those particular guys in the team and the euphoria of achieving that was definitely special.”
Nielsen will stay in tennis, having started a job as National Coach at the Danish Tennis Federation alongside his Davis Cup duties. It marks an exciting new chapter after a highly satisfying career on tour.
“I loved every second of it,” he said. “It’s been a hell of a ride and I feel very privileged to have experienced it.”