Dementieva retires at WTA Championships

In a ceremony filled with tears, Elena Dementieva retired from

tennis after a loss at the WTA Championships ended her 13-year

career.

”It is so emotional,” she said. ”It is so hard to say

goodbye. I am going to miss you so much.”

The 29-year-old Russian reached two Grand Slam finals, won the

gold medal at the Beijing Olympics and helped spur the growth of

tennis in her home country.

Dementieva struggled with injuries this year but still won two

tournaments. She announced her retirement following a 6-4, 6-2

defeat to French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. Dementieva was

surrounded by her fellow players during the ceremony, with mother

Vera courtside.

”She has been one of the players I grew up with playing in

juniors,” said Kim Clijsters, holding back tears. ”It’s nice to

see her looking forward to something new in her life. … She has

been one of the most professional players, one of the nicest girls

on the court.”

Dementieva said she’d decided at the beginning of 2010 that this

would be her last season. Her family, she said, tried to persuade

her to play two more years.

”They were very surprised,” she said. ”I was really looking

for some support. I think nobody was really happy about it, maybe

except my boyfriend.”

”To be honest with you,” she added, ”I mean, if I would be a

man I would never stop playing. But at the age 29, I have to think

about something else. I think I’m ready for a big change in my

life.”

Dementieva is ranked No. 9 after reaching a career-high No. 3

last year. This season she overcame shoulder, calf and ankle

problems to qualify for the WTA Championships a 10th time.

”I think she has been great inspiration for a lot of young

Russians,” Vera Zvonareva said. ”She was a role model. I looked

up to her. She had such a great career. Right now, the whole

country will be sad and everyone will support her.”

Stacy Allaster, chief executive officer of the WTA, said in a

statement that Dementieva has been a ”champion and consummate

professional on and off the court.”

”She has also been a catalyst for the growth of the sport in

Russia and around the world,” she added.

Dementieva considered her biggest achievement the Beijing title

in which she beat Serena Williams, Zvonareva and Dinara Safina en

route to the gold medal.

Dementieva was part of the first all-Russian Grand Slam final,

losing the French title in 2004 to Anastasia Myskina. Later that

year she reached her only other Grand Slam final – another

all-Russian affair, this time at the U.S. Open with Svetlana

Kuznetsova.

Dementieva competed in 46 consecutive Grand Slams until she

missed this year’s Wimbledon because of a calf injury. After

turning pro in 1998, Dementieva won 16 titles, including Sydney in

January with a win over Williams, and the Paris Indoors in

February. She was in two more finals in Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo.

Dementieva played 18 series in the Fed Cup, leading Russia to

the 2005 title with all three points in the final. She has been

ranked in the top 20 since April 2003 and was a top-five doubles

player. She finishes with a 576-273 record and a place in the

year-end top 10 for the seventh time in eight years.

”I never wanted to wait until my ranking dropped and I’m not

going to be able to go to the main draw,” Dementieva said. ”I

always wanted to leave this sport with a passion for it. Tennis has

been such a big part of my life, and always will be.”