A decisão ela já havia tomado no início da temporada, mas optou por não contar para muitas pessoas – somente a família e os amigos muito próximos sabiam da decisão – querendo evitar turnê de despedida e ter que falar sobre o assunto o tempo todo.
Preferiu deixar o circuito enquanto ainda estava vencendo. Chegou ao terceiro posto no ranking mundial, venceu 16 torneios, ganhou a Medalha de Ouro Olímpica em Beijing, em 2008 e agora está pronta para começar uma família.
Primeira russa a alcançar a final de um Grand Slam – em 2004, em Roland Garros, perdeu a final para a compatriota Anastasia Myskina -, Dementieva não conseguiu vencer um torneio da categoria, mas sempre estava lá. Teve seu saque como seu principal inimigo, mas não deixou de vencer por isso. Competiu durante 13 temporadas, encantando o mundo.
Não posso dizer que conheço bem a tenista. Claro que a vi jogar bastante, participei de bastante entrevistas com ela e durante muitos anos em Paris ela ficava no mesmo pequeno hotel, a poucos passos de Roland Garros, em que costumávamos ficar com o Guga. Discreta, fluente em diversas línguas, era dedicada ao esporte, aos estudos, um pouco diferente das superestrelas do circuito. Era uma estrela, sem precisar aparecer.
Como despedida, deixo aqui a transcrição da entrevista coletiva enviada por colegas, que ela concedeu ontem, no Khalifa Stadium, em Doha, logo após anunciar que não competiria mais na WTA.
Q. Why are you doing it?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: (Laughter.) I need some support. Why are you asking me these questions?
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. 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 in the age 29; I have to think about something else. I think I’m ready for the big change in my life.
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.
But, I mean, that’s decision like — you know, it will happen to every athlete, and you have to get ready for this.
Q. What ideas do you have for the future? You say you want to explore new avenues. Media? Coaching? Getting away from tennis altogether?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: You know, I think — well, I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss so many things about our tour. Well, right now I feel like it’s the end of the world, because I really like to play. It’s going to be completely different life for me.
It’s really hard to talk about it. Very emotional.
Q. In those circumstances, it’s tough, I know, but some of the Tweets that have been coming in from all over the world, most seem to be why? They can’t understand why someone as who is talented as you and can still play at a very high level would decide that now is the time to stop playing. That seems to be the general feeling.
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Yeah, that’s the way I feel. When I talk to my family about this decision I was really waiting for them to support me, but they were very surprised. They told me, You have to make the decision. It’s up to you. You are the only one who knows what is the right time for you. Nobody else.
We want you to play because we know who good you can be, and you still can play couple of years and win many tournaments. But if you feel this way, you have to make this decision. I was really looking for some support. I think nobody was really happy about it maybe except my boyfriend.
Yeah, I feel very sad. But, like I said, it’s the right time for me.
Q. How will you occupy your time?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Well, I study. I study in one of the best university in Moscow. I started last year, so obviously now I have more time to do some more study.
Then I decide what I like to do in my life. Because I think it’s one of the most difficult part, you know, for every athlete to make such a big change in my life.
I really want to keep myself busy, because it’s going to be hard to watch all the girls playing. I know I’m going to follow the tournaments. I’m sure I’m going to watch Australian Open and send some messages to the winners.
I’m going to keep myself busy and try to find some other interests in my life.
Q. So when you did the speech for Amélie in Paris, you already know for you?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Yes, and, you know, I was very emotional for her, because we all kind of — we had idea that she was going to retire in Paris, but I think nobody really know about my decision.
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.
Q. How do you want people remember you in the future?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Well, I don’t know if I want people to remember me. I’m sure I’m going to remember myself as Olympic champion. That’s the best thing could ever happen in my career. That was the biggest goal, and I’m so proud of that moment. It was unforgettable experience and unforgettable memories for me and my family.
I don’t think about how people going to remember me.
Q. Was there one match or one experience that – I guess it was this time last year – made you think, That’s it, one more year? Or did you just come to the conclusion when you were in the off-season and taking time off?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Well, I always had a dream of winning French Open, so starting — you know, playing this season, I just wanted to give myself another try. After Olympic Games, that was the biggest dream of mine. I was so close.
But I mean, I was pretty lucky. I never had so many injuries during my career. I was pretty healthy. But that injury probably happened in the worst moment in my entire career.
Yeah, but, you know, 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.
Q. Stacey Allaster said, This is your family; please don’t go away, or don’t go away for too long. Can you imagine being involved in the WTA Tour in some way in the future?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Yeah, it’s so true. I know all of these people who work in WTA for so many years, and we get very close with some of them. It feels like a family. We’re all spending so much time together, traveling together. It’s very hard not to see them again.
I’m not sure if I’m going to be involved in WTA Tour, but it’s great to know that Stacey is taking care of our tour. I think she’s doing a great job. It’s not an easy job to do. We have so many great changes already.
Q. I remember asking you at the start of the week how you thought you were going to do next year, and now I know why you said you didn’t want to talk about next year.
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: It was so funny, like all the players are asking me, Oh, where you going for vacation? Where are you going tos tart next year? I’m playing Hopman Cup or Hong Kong. What’s next for you?
I was like, Well I don’t want to talk about it.
Q. But in terms of strength of the game, how strong do you think women’s tennis is and can become with some of the young players coming into the game right now, someone like Caroline Wozniacki, for instance, the new No. 1?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Well, it’s really great achievement for her. In the age 20 she’s reaching the No. 1 one position. I think it’s extraordinary result. It’s good to have new faces on the tour. She played an excellent year, and she really deserves to be No. 1.
You know, I just feel sorry for Williams sisters, that they are not here. With them, it’s really interesting and challenging for the rest of the players. But I think we’re going to see some more young players coming on the tour and playing in the top level, because I think this is kind of time to change.
There are a lot of 29, 27, 30 years old players that are going to retire in a year or two, so for sure we going to see some new faces coming up.
Q. Does stop playing tennis in not a big country, in Qatar, mean anything for you?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: You know, in the beginning of every season, I always had a motivation to get to the Championships. This is the biggest event in the end of the season.
You know, I was very happy that I could play my last one here. It’s been three years that we’re playing here. Like I said, it’s been very amazing and unique experience for all of us. I will remember this. It was very special.
Q. When you came into the top part of the game, you were a major part of what was, you know, probably wrongly called at the time, the Russian Revolution. There was so many of you girls coming through at the same time. Do you see now that Russia is going to carry on producing such a number of top-class players, or do you think it’s going to be more maybe China or places like that that bring numbers of players through?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Well, it’s difficult for me to talk about China because I don’t know exactly how many junior players they have for the moment. I think we going to see some more very good Russian players coming on the tour.
Well, I think from my generation, the key for all of those good result was the competition. We had so many great players, and the competition really makes you work hard. It’s just an extra motivation for all of us.
So I think right now we have so many good juniors playing in the top level and trying to come to the tour, so, yeah, for sure we going to see some more Russian girls.
Q. You said that if you were a man you would play on forever, and you got some big changes in your life coming up. Can we assume you’re looking to start a family in the future?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: I hope so, yeah.
Q. Which is the best moment in your sports career that you would never forget it?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Well, there are a couple of things, couple of weeks that I will never forget. I would never forget my first tournament that I won on the tour, because I was waiting for this moment for a long, long time.
I remember I won in Amelia Island, one of the very popular tournament on the tour, beating like four, you know, top 10 players. Beating Justine in the semifinals, saving match point, I still remember that. And then beating Lindsay Davenport in the final, I was so exciting to win my first event.
For sure I will remember all the experience in the Olympic Games. My first Olympic Games in Sydney with a silver medal; disaster in Athens; and for sure the gold medal in Beijing. I will never forget it. That was the best week of my career. Yeah, like I said unforgettable experience.
Q. What were the biggest disappointments in your career, that French Open against Anastasia?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: No, I’ve not thought about that as a disappointing. I was 19 years old. It was a great experience for me.
Like I said, I have no regrets because, you know, that was my way. That’s the way I played. 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.