If you look closely, even the forecep is crying. It was that kind of day.
Needless to say, I was initially in a complete state of shock. Tennis *without* Elena Dementieva? The ill-fitting dresses, the shrieking screams of anguish, my envy of Vera's always amazing glasses, those ridiculously reliable groundstrokes, the fact that "she goes to change. She always goes to change", my eyeroll *everytime* the commentators have to go off on her serve. These are things that comprise the fabric of my tennis-loving soul. And given Elena's resiliency and consistency, as well as the London Olympics in 2012, I just didn't think this would come so quick.
I think it's the right time for me. I never wanted to wait until my ranking dropped and I'm not going to be able to go to the main draw. I always wanted to leave this sport with a passion for it.
But Elena's been thinking about it for a while and it sounds like she had made up her mind before the start of the season but she kept it under wraps. Why?
Still, it's very tough decision to make. Very emotional. I made the decision in the beginning of this season, so it was very hard coming to the tournaments knowing that this was my last one. It was very emotional for me to play the whole year.
I didn't want to make it public. I didn't want everybody talking about the whole season. You know, I only told to my family and close friends, so today in the court I was very surprised that everyone kind of knew about my secret. They all were standing, and it was very special for me.
Isn't that just so Elena? She spent 12 years quietly going about her business in an almost workmanlike manner, never jockeying for the spotlight (though the spotlight would find her on its own). She clocked in, she clocked out, met disappointment with the unparalleled grace, and all the while she did it on her terms. And in the course of it all she gained the utmost respect from both fans and peers. Ever heard Serena give genuine props to other players not named Venus? Well she given big ups to Elena. That's something.
Lena wants to have babies, guys. I mean, that's the upshot of her comments after the match:
To be honest with you, I mean, if I would be a man I would never stop playing. But in the age 29; I have to think about something else. I think I'm ready for the big change in my life.
Mama Lena? Grandma Vera? Daddy Max? Nice ring to them all. Can't wait to see her struttin' around Moscow with a Baby Bjorn as Vera walks alongside, concerned that Lena's gonna drop the baby or something.
The post-mortems will talk a lot about "The Slamless Wonder" and all the would of, could of, should ofs of Elena's career. They also talk about her triumphs, namely that Beijing gold medal that no one can ever take away. But when I think of Elena I won't think about those things. I won't think about the nutty serve, that match point at Wimby 08, or her almost backboard-like qualities that would give my favorite players fits.
Nope. I will simply remember that she was a professional tennis player, and I mean this as the ultimate compliment. She worked hard, traveled the globe, clocked in hour after hour on the court, never let her fitness down, and she tried to maximize her talent as best she could. She fought, she tried, and she worked and she never complained about it.
In this day and age of tennis, it's a hell of a lot easier to be wowed by natural talent. Strength, speed, power, flexibility, fitness, etc. But work ethic is a natural talent, too, and that's something I will always attribute to Elena. She was a grinder. In the best sense of the word.
I have no regrets. I think I was practicing very hard; I was trying very hard; that was my way. If it didn't happen, it didn't happen, but I have nothing to blame myself. I was very professional and I had nothing but tennis, tennis, tennis, and I did it with passion.
So I have absolutely in regrets. I have so many things to be proud of. It was a very difficult and long way for me. So, yeah, I just have very nice and unforgettable memories.
I was far away from being perfect, but, you know, I had a great fighting spirit. Even without good serve, I was struggling for so many matches, but I was fighting and I was never give up. I was giving 100% on the court no matter who well I was playing. This is what I like.
You don't have to be perfect, but you have to try very hard, and I did all the time.
Yes, you did Elena. And to me, that will be your legacy.
That and the dresses. Goddamn those things were ugly.