- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SPLIT, CROATIA (AP) - Mario Ancic will turn his focus from tennis to law after a back injury and illness forced him to end his playing career.

The 26-year-old Croat confirmed at a news conference in his hometown of Split on Wednesday that he was retiring after 10 years because of the back injury.

“It was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make,” Ancic said. “I’m only 26, but my body said I would not be able to continue on a high level.

“I was advised to either undergo surgery or go through a conservative method, but I had no guarantee with either option.”

Ancic graduated with a law degree from the University of Split in 2008. He wrote a thesis on the legal workings of the ATP.

Asked about his plans for the future, he replied: “I will continue practicing law.”

Ancic first came to prominence in 2002 when he defeated seventh-seeded Roger Federer in the opening round of Wimbledon on his Grand Slam debut. Federer didn’t lose again at Wimbledon for six years. He was beaten in the 2008 final by Rafael Nadal.

Ancic, nicknamed “Super Mario” by his fans, won three ATP titles. He reached a career-high ranking of No. 7 in 2006, two years after reaching the Wimbledon semifinals for his best Grand Slam result. He also won the decisive point for Croatia in 2005 when it won the Davis Cup for the first time.

He had recurring mononucleosis in 2007 and recently struggled with back and knee problems.