Ljubicic bids tennis farewell
Monte Carlo - Ivan Ljubicic bowed out of tennis on Sunday in the emotional setting of the Monte Carlo Masters, with the Croatian losing his final match 6-0, 6-3 to compatriot 59th-ranked Ivan Dodig.
Ljubicic, Monte Carlo-based and a fan favourite around the ATP for a decade and a half, was overcome with emotion as he played and lost his final career match, going down in 71 minutes.
The 33-year-old father of two had not played since a first-round Loss in Dubai in February and admitted he was not match-fit.
"It was a tough day for me, on the court and off," said Ljubicic, "My mind was not on the tennis court. Obviously I'm completely out of shape. I don't even think it makes any sense to talk about the match today.
"I have to say that I felt like it could end up emotionally, but I didn't expect it these big emotions really. It's the end of something beautiful for me. It's been 20 years, and now it's time to do something else."
Ljubicic reached a career-high number three ranking in 2006, the year he achieved his best Grand Slam result with a Roland Garros semi-final. He also served on the ATP board in 2008-09 and headed the influential Player Council now guided by Roger Federer.
Ljubicic said he is proud of four major achievements over the course of his career: an Athens 2004 Olympic doubles bronze medal, the 2005 Davis Cup title, the number three ranking, and (winning) Indian Wells (in 2010), his last of 10 career ATP titles.
"The presentation off the court, it's something that really made me proud as well. 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."
Ljubicic will remain in Monte Carlo and says that a post-tennis life is already starting to take shape.
"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 in reference to running for the ATP board.
The player, who was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina but had to flee home at a young age when war broke out in the Balkans, eventually made his way to Italy to work with coach Riccardo Piatti, his one and only mentor.
"I always felt for me was always important to have somebody next to me who knows me best. There were the moments where I wanted to hear second opinion. I think every player gets to that. But instead of firing the coach, we thought: 'Why not just adding another thought?'
"We worked with Niki Pilic for some time, we worked Wojtek Fibak, as well, when I thought I needed to hear a second voice. I always felt it's very important to have somebody next to me who knows me sometimes even better than me knowing myself."
As he moves onto a new life, Ljubicic looks back with satisfaction at his ATP career.
"I did a lot more than I personally expected (in my career)," he said. "I guess even the people around me didn't expect for me to reach (as far as I did). But I'm happy that I did. I absolutely have no regrets."
With only three matches on court on opening day, Serb Viktor Troicki earned a second-round date against third seed Andy Murray with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Jean-Rene Lisnard of Monaco.
Results from the first day of the ATP Monte Carlo Masters on Sunday (x denotes seeding):
Viktor Troicki (SRB) bt Jean-Rene Lisnard (MON) 6-3, 6-1
Ivan Dodig (CRO) bt Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 6-0, 6-3
Gilles Simon (FRA x9) bt Benjamin Balleret (MON) 6-3, 6-2