Elena Dementieva, who won gold at the 2008 Olympic Games, called time on her 12-year tennis career on Friday and said it felt like the “end of the world.” The 29-year-old Russian stunned the crowd at the WTA Championships by announcing her retirement from the middle of the court at the Khalifa Tennis Complex after losing her final group game to Francesca Schiavone.
Dementieva won 16 Tour titles and finished runner-up at the 2004 French and U.S. Opens, reaching a career-high of third in the world rankings in 2009 and earning more than $14 million in prize-money.
As Kim Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva and other competitors at the season-ending tournament stood side-by-side wiping away tears, Dementieva thanked her fans and paid tribute to her mother and coach Vera.
“I would like to thank all the people around the world for supporting me,” Dementieva told the crowd. “I'm so emotional and it's so hard to say goodbye.”
Her compatriot Zvonareva took the microphone and thanked Dementieva for her contribution to sport back home.
“Russia is proud of you,” said Zvonareva. “You have done so much not only for Russian tennis but for sport in Russia. You have been an inspiration, a role model for kids growing up.”