Tzipi Obziler announced her retirement from tennis on Thursday, bringing to an end a remarkable career which began some 21 years ago.
"This is the right time for me to retire," an emotional Obziler said on Thursday. "I'm grateful for this wonderful and small country which gave me the opportunity to have a great career."
The 36-year-old failed to realize her potential at the start of her career and quit the game in 2000 after a sponsor surprisingly withdrew his support. For almost two years Obziler coached young talents, but still continued to play for Israel's Fed Cup team.
The turning point came in July 2002 in Springfield, Missouri when a few words from legend Billie Jean King made Obziler realize that her departure from the professional game was premature.
Israel may have lost its Fed Cup tie against the USA 5-0, but Obziler pushed Monica Seles and Lindsey Davenport all the way in both her matches and some words of encouragement from King persuaded her to come out of retirement.
After several more years of mediocrity, Obziler finally made her breakthrough in 2007, entering the top-100 for the first time in her career before reaching a career best ranking of number 75 in July.
That same year, Obziler also played a key role in helping Israel's Fed Cup team to the World Group, which includes only the world's top eight nations.
"This is a very emotional day for me," said Fed Cup teammate Shahar Pe'er. "Tzipi was like an older sister to me. From my first day in the national team Tzipi always helped and supported me. As far as I'm concerned Tzipi is a model athlete both on and off the court."
Earlier this year, Obziler recorded her 61st Fed Cup appearance, equaling Anna Smashnova's competition record.
However, she only continued to play on the WTA Tour to remain in shape for the Fed Cup, and after Israel lost 3-2 to Estonia at the end of April and was relegated to the Europe/Africa Zone Group I, the veteran took part in just two more tournaments before announcing on Thursday that she's hanging up her racket.
Despite Thursday's announcement, Obziler admitted that she might still be tempted to play for the national team.
"If captain Lior Mor decides he wants me on the team and I see that I'm physically capable of playing, than of course I wouldn't refuse," Obziler said.