Ivan Ljubicic bowed out from professional tennis after a disappointing first-round loss to Ivan Dodig at the Monte Carlo Masters on Sunday.
He lost in straight sets, 6-0 6-3, in just one hour and 11 minutes as Dodig proved far too strong for him.
The 33-year-old Croatian, a Monaco resident, certainly deserved a better farewell match. After the match, overwhelmed, he fell into his chair in tears while the sparse crowd granted him a standing ovation.
He was gifted a special award from ATP boss Brad Drewett and tournament director Zeljko Franulovic during a post-match ceremony on court.
Ljubicic was overcome with emotion as there was also a special presentation for him which included a tribute from Roger Federer and some of his career highlights, including the victory at Indian Wells in 2010.
“I felt like it could end up emotional but I didn’t expect it this big, this emotional. Obviously, it’s the end of something beautiful for me,” Ljubicic told a news conference.
“It was a tough day for me both on the court and off the court. I knew my mind was everywhere else but on the tennis court.”
The famous bald-headed player had announced he would play his last event at home in Monte Carlo.
“For me, it’s a special place. In 1999, big tennis started here for me, qualifying, beating AndriyMedvedev and Yevgeni Kafelnikov,” Ljubicic said.
“In a way, to wrap it up and finish off here… I think it was the right place to do that.”
The popular Croatian was applauded in the locker room by his fellow players.
“Really, to feel also now walking into the locker room, all the guys standing and clapping, it’s something beautiful to see how guys respected me and the way I represented them for many, many years.”
But Ljubicic, a former Player Council head and ATP board member in 2008-2009, could still find himself involved in tennis in the future, should he choose to pursue a European seat on the ATP board due to become vacant later this year.
“It’s time to do something else, but I have no idea. I’m going to take some time off. A lot of people have already come to me and talked to me about ideas and projects. I’m sure you know what I mean,” he said.
World number 59 Dodiglevelled his record in the series at 2-2 as he put out his senior compatriot, who had said that with two young children and ageing bones he was getting diminishing returns from the game.
Dodig admitted that his compatriot was someone that he idolised in the early part of his career and was unhappy to be the man who had to bring the curtain down on his playing days.
“I think this is the first time that I’m not happy to win the match,” he said “All players like me, like Mario Ancic, we learnt from him.”