Elena Dementieva's retirement after her match against Francesca Schiavone at the end of round robin play in Doha it seems as if that clock is ticking louder than ever. No she never won a Grand Slam. No she never got higher than number three in the rankings. Heaven knows she had no serve. And yes she was different. A truly beautiful woman she was never the one hyped by the tennis establishment let alone the media. Yet for twelve years she was a mainstay in her sport and spent years ranked within the top echelon of tennis. I became a fan late in her career but admired her ability to fight, to try and be the best she could be whenever she took the court.
To be honest she did look a little distracted in the second half of the year. Rumor is she had told a select few that this was going to be her last year. It was hinted that she wanted what life has to offer away from the court, away from airports and practice and training. Maybe she'll be seen at NHL games watching her boyfriend. Will their engagement make the news cycle around the world? I doubt it. Elena is not that person.
Some are saying her retirement is the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of women's tennis. Was there such a thing? Let's look at active players who have been at or near the top of the sport in singles and when they turned pro.
Patty Schnyder turned Pro in August 1994
Venus Williams turned Pro October 31, 1994
Serena Williams turned Pro September 1995
Kim Clijsters turned Pro in 1997
Francesca Schiavone turned Pro in 1998
Elena Dementieva turned Pro August 25, 1998
Justine Henin turned Pro January 1, 1999
Daniela Hantuchova turned Pro May 1999
Svetlana Kuznetsova turned Pro 2000
Maria Sharapova turned Pro April 19, 2001How do you define a "Golden Age"? I think what people mean is that before all the up and comers began to play the same generic game there were players who brought a unique style and personality to the game and to the court. These women are innovative and can think their way out of a paper bag. You very rarely see any of the women above (with the notable exception of Maria Sharapova) resort to on court coaching. They take pride in what makes tennis great - the ability to go mind to mind with the person across the net figuring out their game and developing a way to beat them. Does that mean that a "Golden Age" is about to end?
There's been a lot of talk in the broadcast booth about the recent spate of slamless number one players, women who play almost every week in order to amass the points that will put their name at the top of the heap. There's also been a lot of talk about the toll that takes on the body.
But that's an end of year discussion and not one that needs to be had now.
Elena Dementieva is going to be missed. I'm not sure if she asked that her name be taken off of the rankings list or if she wants it to fall off naturally. 2011 is going to start out strangely without her name on the entry list for the Australian Open.
For those who haven't seen it here is the tape of Elena's farewell speech.
Best wishes and much success with the rest of your life Elena.