- Associated Press - Friday, October 29, 2010

DOHA, QATAR (AP) - Beijing Olympics champion Elena Dementieva announced her retirement from professional tennis Friday after bowing out of the WTA Championships.

Dementieva, who has struggled with injuries and was eliminated Thursday from reaching the semifinals, made her announcement in a tearful ceremony surrounded by her fellow rivals.

The 29-year-old Russian ended her 12-year career, marked by two Grand Slam finals, by losing to French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 6-2. Dementieva won 16 times overall.

“It is so emotional. It is so hard to say good bye,” Dementieva told her fellow players. “I am going to miss you so much.”

Looking at her mother Vera in the stands, Dementieva said: “My mom was very supportive and inspiring. She was always there for me. It is emotional for her as well. I love you mom.”

Players lined up to pay tribute to a fellow competitor they described as a true pro.

“She has been one of the players I grew up with playing in juniors. It’s nice to see her looking forward to something new in her life,” Kim Clijsters said, holding back tears. “She has been the most professional of players, one of the nicest girls on the court.”

Second-ranked Vera Zvonareva said she heard Dementieva talk about retiring during a year in which was often was sidelined with injuries. She withdrew from this month’s Luxembourg Open with ankle problems and earlier in the year from a tournament in Dubai because of shoulder problems.

Elena is a great player and I think she has been great inspiration for a lot of lot young Russians,” said Zvonareva, also from Russia. “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,”

Dementieva considered her biggest achievement winning the Beijing gold medal, for which she had to beat Serena Williams, Zvonareva and Dinara Safina.

Dementieva featured in the first all-Russian Grand Slam final in 2004 at Roland Garros, losing to Anastasia Myskina. Later that year she reached her only other Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open, another all-Russian affair with Svetlana Kuznetsova. Despite some epic wins over Amelie Mauresmo and Jennifer Capriati to reach both finals, neither conclusion was memorable.

She competed in 46 consecutive Grand Slams until missing this year’s Wimbledon.

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 this season.

Dementieva played 18 matches in Fed Cup, spearheading Russia to the 2005 title with all three points in the final. She has been ranked in the top 20 since April 2003, reaching a career-high of No. 3 last year. She was also a top-five doubles player.

She finishes her career with a 576-273 win-loss record, and a place in the year-end top 10 for the seventh time in eight years.



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