NEW YORK, NY, USA -- Grand Slam champion and former Top 5 player Francesca Schiavone announced her retirement from professional tennis at the US Open on Wednesday.

"For me, it's a very important moment of my life," an emotional Schiavone said during a press conference. "I arrived at this decision, to say goodbye to tennis, with my heart. Because my head, when I arrived here, said 'Please go to the court, to fight.'"

"But my heart says that I am in peace like this," the former World No.4 continued. "I am very happy about my career, my life, and everything."

PHOTOS: Schiavone's fabulous career highlights

The 38-year-old with the stylish one-handed backhand blazed a trail for Italian women's tennis, setting a number of milestones for her country during her vaunted career, which lasted for 22 seasons since she made her debut at an ITF event in her home country in 1996.

Significantly, she became the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title at the 2010 French Open, defeating Li Na, Maria Kirilenko, Caroline Wozniacki, Elena Dementieva, and Samantha Stosur in her last five matches to claim the biggest title of her career. She also very nearly defended that title, reaching the final in Paris once again in 2011 before falling to Li Na in the championship match.

Schiavone used that championship at Roland Garros to launch herself to a career-high singles ranking of World No.4 in January of 2011, making her the first Italian to reach the Top 5 of the WTA singles rankings. She also finished 2010 in the Top 8, which allowed her to qualify for the year-ending WTA Finals that season.

"When I was 18 years old, I had two dreams," Schiavone stated. "The first one was to win Roland Garros, and the second one was to become Top 10 in the world. And I completed them, so I'm very, very happy, and lucky."

"After 20 years of career and life, I have new dreams," the Italian continued. "The heart, I think, needs dreams every day of the life." Schiavone went on to say that one of her dreams going forward is to come back to the US Open and other events, as a coach.

The Italian legend succumbed in her first eight WTA singles finals before clinching her maiden WTA singles trophy at Bad Gastein in 2007. She would go on to win eight WTA singles titles, including her Grand Slam victory at the 2010 French Open, as well as the Premier-level Kremlin Cup in 2009. Schiavone reached 20 singles finals in her career.

Schiavone was also an accomplished doubles player, winning seven WTA titles in that discipline and making nine other finals (including at the 2008 French Open, partnering Casey Dellacqua). She reached the semifinals in doubles at all four Grand Slam events and peaked at a career-high doubles ranking of No.8 in 2007.

Milan resident Schiavone often brought her best play to the major events in singles as well as doubles. She reached at least the singles quarterfinals at Grand Slam events seven times, and pulled off the feat at all four majors. She owns the second longest streak for most consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances, with 61 in a row.

Schiavone has also been a stalwart performer when representing her country. She was an integral part of the Italian teams which won the Fed Cup championship in 2006, 2009, and 2010. She also represented her country at the Olympics in 2004, 2008, and 2012, reaching the singles quarterfinals in 2004 and the doubles quarterfinals in 2008.