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Ex-No. 1 Ivanovic ends career

In a two-minute video streamed on her official Facebook page, the 29-year-old said hanging up her racket — after being hindered by injuries — was a “difficult decision” to make.

“There is no other way to say it — I’ve decided to retire from professional tennis. It has been a difficult decision but there is so much to celebrate. I began dreaming of tennis when I was five (years old) when I saw Monica Seles playing on TV…” the Serbian said, referring to the nine-time grand slam winner born in Novi Sad.

“I’ve seen the heights I’ve never dreamed of achieving — 15 WTA titles, (reached) three grand slam finals, a Fed Cup final and I’ve played so many memorable matches. Not bad for a tiny slip of a girl from Serbia!”

Aided by a devastating forehand, Ivanovic won her first and only grand slam singles title in 2008, beating Russia’s Dinara Safina in the French Open final — the victory, and an Australian Open final appearance earlier that year, sent her to the top of the women’s rankings.

Since turning pro in 2003, Ivanovic earned $15.5 million in on-court prize money, according to the WTA website. With her substantial sponsorship revenue, she was eighth on Forbes’ highest-paid female athletes list for 2016 despite slumping to 63rd in the rankings.

WTA CEO and chairman Steve Simon described Ivanovic as a “true champion” in a statement released Wednesday.

“Ana is a true champion and a great ambassador for the sport of women’s tennis,” Simon said.

“She has contributed greatly to the entire sport, both in her home country of Serbia and across the globe. She will certainly be missed on our tour as she is not only one of a very select few that achieved the WTA No. 1 ranking but is also one of the most respected players on Tour.”

Nigel Sears, who coached Ivanovic in a pair of stints, called her “a rare and true talent” and a “pleasure to work with.”

“Her special blend of sparkling, instinctive shotmaking, spearheaded by that very special forehand and also armed with a deft touch — she always kept you on the edge of your seat!” Sears, the father in-law of men’s No. 1 Andy Murray, told SAHIFANEWS in an email.

The forehand was “a very natural, totally unique shot which on her day was capable of destroying any opponent,” he continued. “The winners would come from almost anywhere on the court and nobody could do anything about it.

“Ana was one of the most emotional players on Tour and wore her heart on her sleeve.”

Injuries have dogged Ivanovic in recent years, which she said had contributed to her decision to bow out at a relatively young age. After her triumph in Paris in 2008, a thumb injury affected Ivanovic the rest of that season and she was never the same player.

Her last appearance on court was at the US Open in August, when she was upset in the first round. A month earlier she married former Germany football captain Bastian Schweinsteiger.

“It’s well known I’ve been hampered by injuries so for myself, my fans and all these young girls and boys who might be watching me — I can only play if I perform up to my own high standards and I can no longer do that, so it’s time to move on,” said Ivanovic, a longtime friend of Serbian men’s 12-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic.

“Tennis has always been my love but I’m so excited about what comes next … I will explore opportunities in business, beauty and fashion among other endeavors. I will also have more time for my philanthropic activities.

“I’ve lived my dreams and really hope others to do so as well.”

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