She fought alongside the biggest names on the WTA for over a decade, right until the end too. And following her last match of this week's WTA Championships - Doha 2010, Elena Dementieva called it a career.
After Anna Kournikova's stint at the top level in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Dementieva was the first of the current wave of Russians to make a mark, cracking the Top 20 on September 11, 2000 after a shock run to her first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open. She stayed in that elite for 524 of the next 529 weeks, including this week, and she spent an amazing 328 career weeks inside the Top 10 (peaking at No.3 for five weeks in the spring of 2009).
Dementieva seemed to get better and better with age, her most treasured title, the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, coming at age 26, and her two Top 5 finishes coming at 27 and 28 (at the end of the 2008 and 2009 seasons).
In addition to 16 WTA titles, Dementieva reached another 16 finals, including Grand Slam finals at the French Open and US Open in 2004. Players had to go to the ends of the Earth to beat her; who could forget Serena Williams' 6-7(4) 7-5 8-6 win over her in the semifinals of Wimbledon last year, where the eventual champion had to save match point in what is widely regarded as one of the best matches in recent memory. Dementieva reached the semifinals or better at Grand Slams nine times, doing it at least once at every Grand Slam.
Dementieva's success wasn't just limited to singles. She won six WTA doubles titles (including the WTA Championships in 2002 with Janette Husarova) and reached another seven finals (including two US Open finals, in 2002 with Husarova and 2005 with Flavia Pennetta). Her doubles career-high was No.5.
But after 12 years competing at the highest level, the Russian, who celebrated her 29th birthday earlier this month, decided to bow out on the WTA's biggest stage, her last match coming against Francesca Schiavone. The 30-year-old Italian would win that match in an hour and 33 minutes on center court, 6-4 6-2.
"This year in Doha was very special for me because it was my last tournament," Dementieva told the crowd. "I'd first like to thank Stacey Allaster. We're very lucky to have you as the leader of the tour. You do so much to make our tour better, trying to take women's tennis to a different level. It has been a big honor to be a part of the tour for such a long time. I'd like to thank all the people from the WTA - it was so nice to get to know all of you and work with you for so many years. I'm going to miss you so much. Thanks to all the players for the amazing experiences, all the years I spent on the court with you. And thanks to all the people around the world for supporting me, and my fan club, I could feel your support no matter where I was in the world. Thank you for your devotion.
"Most importantly, thanks to my family, especially my mom. You've been very supportive, encouraging, inspiring... you were always there for me. It was a long way and we did it together. I love you mom.
"It's so emotional. It's hard to say goodbye. I'm going to miss you so much."
"Russia is proud to have you. You've been a great inspiration and role model for kids," Vera Zvonareva said on court. "You've done so much, not just for Russian tennis but for Russian sport. The whole country is proud of you."
"We kind of grew up together. I've been playing with her since the juniors," Kim Clijsters said. "It's nice to see her look forward to something new in her life. She's been one of the most professional, nicest girls on tour.
"It will be rare to see another player like her."