Ljubicic is brought to tears as he bids the sport he loves farewell [GALLO/GETTY]

Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic said his goodbyes to tennis on Sunday after suffering a 6-0, 6-3 opening defeat to compatriot Ivan Dodig at the Monte Carlo Masters.

The first-round loss was the end of the line for the shaven-headed Croatian icon, who last played in an opening loss in Dubai two months ago.

The Monte Carlo-based veteran, 33, had previously announced that the elite event in the principality which opened the pre-French Open run would be his last hurrah in the sport.

"It was a tough day for me, on the court and off," said an emotional Ljubicic.

"I had my mind everywhere else except 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 these big emotions really. It's the end of something beautiful for me"

Ivan Ljubicic

"I have to say that I felt like it could end up emotionally but I didn't expect 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."

World number 59 Dodig levelled his record in the series at 2-2 as he put out his senior compatriot, who had said that with two young children and ageing bones he was getting diminishing returns from the game.

But Ljubicic, a former Player Council head and ATP board member in 2008-2009, could still find himself involved in tennis in the future, should he choose to pursue a European seat on the ATP board due to become vacant later this year.

Ljubicic went down in 71 minutes to Dodig, saving six break points. But Dodig said he had mixed emotions on beating his opponent.

"This is the first time that I'm not happy to have won the match," said Dodig.

"I'm happy and proud that I played against such a good player who made history, especially for the Croatian people and Croatian tennis.

"I'm happy that I played him in his last match, not because I won it."

Djokovic danger  

The opening day programme in Monte Carlo, on a dry day after Saturday downpours interrupted qualifying rounds, was light on matches, with only three scheduled.

Novak Djokovic heads the field, with the Serb number one returning to action after skipping last year to rest.

Djokovic is fresh from his recent Miami title win against Britain's Andy Murray.

Spain's Rafael Nadal, who is looking for his eighth Monte Carlo trophy in a row, faces a fitness test when he steps onto the clay after a bye given to the top eight seeds, facing the winner from Radek Stepanek and Finn Jarkko Nieminen.

After taking therapy in Spain for the left knee which forced him to quit before his Miami semi-final with Murray, the world number two only got back to training on Wednesday.

He has been hitting in Monte Carlo since Friday, ducking in between showers and brisk spring temperatures.

Source: AFP