Jelena Jankovic of Serbia was beaten 6-4 6-1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during the WTA Championships [AFP]

Elena Dementieva lost 6-4 6-2 to Italy's Francesca Schiavone at the WTA Championships on Friday before stunning the crowd by announcing her retirement from tennis.

The 29-year-old, making her 10th appearance at the prestigious tournament in Qatar, blinked away tears as she thanked her fans around the world and paid tribute to her mother Vera for her support throughout her career.

"I would like to thank all the people around the world for supporting me," the Russian told the crowd as her mother and fellow competitors wiped away tears at the Khalifa Tennis Complex in the capital, Doha.
"I'm so emotional and it's so hard to say goodbye."

Despite never having won a Grand Slam tournament, Dementieva won 16 Tour titles after turning professional in 1998, and won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Dementieva and Francesca Schiavone had already been eliminated from the Maroon Group after Caroline Wozniacki and Sam Stosur sealed semi-final spots a day earlier, but with year-end ranking points and $100,000 on offer for the win neither player lacked motivation.

Early break

French Open champion Schiavone, making her singles debut at the $4.55 million season-ending tournament, suffered an early break but hit back immediately and moved into a 4-2 lead.

Dementieva broke in the seventh and then levelled at 4-4 but the 30-year-old Schiavone regained the momentum and skipped with delight after sealing the set 6-4.

The Italian upped the tempo in the second set and quickly got the measure of Dementieva's serve and wrapped it up 6-2. 

In the White Group, Vera Zvonareva maintained her unbeaten record while reaching the semi-finals of the WTA Championships. Her 6-4, 7-5 victory Friday over US Open champion Kim Clijsters also guaranteeing her a year-end finish as world number two.

The Russian, who moments before the match bade an emotional farewell to Dementieva, was the only player to go through the group stage unbeaten and will play Wozniacki in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Clijsters will play Stosur for a place in the final.

Source: Agencies