Doha, Qatar :Two-time Grand Slam finalist Elena Dementieva retired after bowing out of the WTA Championships on Friday, admitting in a tear-filled ceremony it was hard to leave after 13 years on the tour.
Dementieva, who struggled with injuries this year but still won two titles, lost to French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 6-2 then made her announcement while her mother Vera was courtside with a speech that brought her peers to tears.
"It is so emotional. It is so hard to say goodbye. I am going to miss you so much," the 29-year-old Dementieva said.
She said she'd decided at the beginning of 2010 that this would be her last season, saying it "was very emotional for me to play all year."
Her family, she said, tried to convince the 29-year-old to play for two more years.
"They were very surprised (by the decision)," she said. "I was really looking for some support. I think nobody was really happy about it, maybe except my boyfriend."
Dementieva said she'd always dreamed of winning the French Open -- she reached the final in 2004 and lost this year in the semifinals -- but said she was leaving the tour with no regrets.
She considered her biggest achievement was winning the Beijing Olympics gold medal, for which she had to beat Serena Williams, Vera Zvonareva and Dinara Safina.
Her rivals lined up to pay tribute.
"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 one of the most professional players, one of the nicest girls on the court."
Compatriot Zvonareva said she he'd heard No. 9-ranked Dementieva talk about retiring during a year in which she overcame shoulder, calf and ankle problems to qualify for the elite WTA Championships for a 10th time.
"Elena is a great player and I think she has been great inspiration for a lot of young Russians," 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, the chairman and chief executive officer of the WTA, said Dementieva would be missed, and had been "a champion and consummate professional."
"She has also been a catalyst for the growth of the sport in Russia and around the world," Allaster said in a statement.
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 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 this year in Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo.
Dementieva played 18 ties 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.
"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.
"To be honest with you, 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."