With a tearful goodbye, Elena Dementieva retired from tennis today after a loss at the WTA Championships to Francesca Schiavone. She ended her 13-year career and walks away from the WTA Tour as the world number 9.
While I almost held it together as Dementieva announced this was her last tournament, I lost it when I saw the tears pouring out of the people behind her – Kim Clijsters, Sam Stosur, Gisela Dulko, Flavia Pennetta, her mother, Vera, and more, all visibly emotional. That showing was a true testament to the type of player and person Dementieva is.
Everyone is quick to call her the “best tennis player to never win a slam.” But slam-less Dementieva considers her biggest achievement the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in which she beat Serena Williams, Vera Zvonareva and Dinara Safina to win Gold. One might argue a Gold Medal is more valuable, prestigious and elusive than a Grand Slam trophy.
If you think about it, in Dementieva’s career (which started in August 1998), there have been approximately 44 Grand Slam trophies won. There have been 9 Olympics medals won, and Dementieva has won 2 of those (Silver in Sydney 2000, Gold in Beijing 2008). Furthermore, There have been only 3 Olympic Gold medals won, and Dementieva won one of those.
So to headline her as “banged-up” or “the greatest to never…” is only a disservice to the sport of tennis. She worked hard for 13 years and has an Olympic Gold medal to show for it.
And for what Dementieva has done during her career for her country, her fans and the sport of tennis, with class and composure, she has set a new gold (medal) standard for years to come.
“It is so emotional. It is so hard to say goodbye. I am going to miss you so much,” Dementieva said.
And we’ll miss you, Elena.
(Photo: Getty Images)