Stalwart Dementieva announces retirement after Doha defeat

Elena Dementieva, the reigning Olympic champion and a winner of 16 singles titles, announced her retirement last night after playing her final match in the season-ending WTA Championships at Doha.

The 29-year-old Russian, who was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Francesca Schiavone, was a stalwart of the women's tour, playing a total of 849 matches and appearing in 46 grand slam tournaments in succession until injury forced her out of Wimbledon this summer.

Dementieva was arguably the best player of recent times not to have won a grand slam title. She lost in the 2004 finals of both the French Open and US Open and was No 3 in the world rankings as recently as last year. She reached the semi-finals of seven other grand slams, including this year's French Open and won a total of $14.1m ( £8.8m) in prize money.

Coached by her mother, Dementieva overcame long-term problems with her serve to become one of the most consistent performers on the tour. She loved representing her country and said that winning the Olympic title meant more to her than any grand slam crown.

An emotional Dementieva broke the news of her retirement to the Doha crowd after her match yesterday. Having thanked officials and fellow players, she added: "The most important thing is that I would like to thank my family, especially my mother. She was very supportive, encouraging and inspiring. She was always there for me."

The world's two top-ranked players, Vera Zvonareva and Caroline Wozniacki, will meet in today's semi-finals in Doha. Kim Clijsters, beaten 6-4, 7-5 by Zvonareva yesterday, will play Sam Stosur.

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