PARIS, France - Former World No.5 and doubles World No.1 Lucie Safarova is poised to bring down the curtain on her stellar career following a first-round doubles loss at Roland Garros, where she partnered Dominika Cibulkova to a 6-4, 6-0 defeat at the hands of Sofia Kenin and Andrea Petkovic.
The Czech star, 32, who was runner-up in singles here to Serena Williams in 2015 and who was doubles champion in 2015 and 2017 - two of her five Grand Slam doubles crowns alongside Bethanie Mattek-Sands, drew a standing ovation from Court 4 following the one-hour, five-minute contest.
Gallery: Safarova given home soil send-off in Prague
That was fitting, considering what Safarova said she most wanted her legacy to be afterwards: "I just wish they would remember me as a nice, fun player who they liked to watch - and great results behind me!"
Asked if there was any possibility of extending her playing career, Safarova said she was "99%" certain that she will head into retirement - and that she is sure she will "be back, somehow, in tennis, connected - because I really enjoy the sport". First, though? "A long vacation!" Though Safarova has enjoyed experiencing different cultures and cities over the years, "the travel, the time zone change" will not be missed at all.
Safarova's 2019 farewell tour saw her reach the Stuttgart final in April with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but the American-German duo were too sharp today. Kenin and Petkovic recovered from an early break down to edge a close first set before accelerating through the second, finishing as Petkovic tapped a volley behind Safarova.Roland Garros is, of course, the site of some of the 32-year-old's most cherished memories - among many.
"I will definitely remember the finals here in Paris against Serena," she said. "Winning each of the Grand Slams next to Bethanie. And special ones are, of course, Fed Cup because they're the only team competitions, and to win on a home court in front of that amazing, big crowd is very special. Olympics, again, completely different atmosphere. Winning a medal and standing there getting the medal on your neck, it's an amazing memory as well.
"But there's been also matches that were not maybe so big, but turning it around from losing and playing long matches. I remember I played against Maria Sharapova in Stuttgart, which I lost after three hours and 20 minutes, and that hurt a lot. And so there are many of those.
"And I like looking back at all of this. I cherish even those that I lost because I learned from them and then I was able to be better and achieve what I wanted, what were my dreams."
Safarova has been one of the most beloved members of the WTA Tour for her character as well as her talent. Ahead of Roland Garros, WTA Legend Martina Navratilova wrote in her exclusive wtatennis.com tournament preview: "It's possible to be a sweet person and still succeed in this gladiatorial sport of ours. Just look at Lucie Safarova.
"I've only got nice things to say about Lucie, who has had a great career, including reaching the final of the 2015 French Open, where she came so close to beating Serena. She also won a bunch of doubles majors, and represented the Czech Republic so well in the Fed Cup. On top of all that, Lucie has always been a fun player to watch. I wish her a happy retirement."