Elena Dementieva: Star Sportswoman
Published December 19, 2010 12:00
ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA - When Elena Dementieva retired from tennis in an on-court ceremony on October 29, she was surrounded by her fellow players and everyone had positive, kind words to say about the talented Russian. Later, the women of the WTA took it one step further with their end-of-season awards, giving Dementieva the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award for 2010.
Dementieva is now a two-time winner of the accolade, which is voted on by the players and awarded for conduct, attitude, and sense of fair play. She also got it in 2008. Kim Clijsters has the most with seven (including 2009).
Implemented in 1978, the award honors Australian player Karen Krantzcke, who passed away from a heart attack a year earlier at the age of 31. A former Top 10 player, Krantzcke reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and Roland Garros and helped her country to Fed Cup victory in 1970. Alongside Kerry Melville Reid, she also won the Aussie Open doubles in 1968.
The response to Dementieva's retirement is indicative of how deserving she is of the honor and how much she is respected as a competitor and a person. As she declared her decision to depart tennis after her final match at the WTA Championships in Doha, the other players at the tournament joined her on court to celebrate her fantastic career. Then, in video messages recorded afterwards, the WTA's top players shared their thoughts, memories and well wishes with the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist and new 29-year-old retiree.
Fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva remarked about how important Dementieva, winner of 16 career titles, was to the sports community in their home country: "You've made such a huge contribution, not just to tennis but to sports in Russia in general. We will indeed miss you more than you know. I want to wish you luck in the second chapter of your life and I hope everything goes well in the future. You will always be remembered as an amazing player, as an amazing champion and most importantly, an amazing person."
Both Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters talked about how much they enjoyed working with her: "Thank you so much for everything you've done for our sport and for us," Azarenka said. "You were an amazing person to train with and to talk to and a nice person with whom it was always a privilege to be around."
"It has been a real pleasure having been on the tour with you for so many years," Clijsters said. "I think we go way back already from juniors, having played against each other all over the world and in different places. Having our careers grow up together was always fun, challenging and motivating."
Caroline Wozniacki remembers watching Dementieva play as a child. "You've been a fantastic role model, also for me growing up and seeing you on TV. On and off the court, you've been so professional, such a nice girl, it's always nice to see your smile. I just want to wish you the best of luck in the future."
The Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award may be the last one Dementieva will win as a player on the tour, but if it is any indication, she is sure to succeed just as greatly in the next chapter of her life as well.