By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 29 on Wednesday because she no longer feels fit enough to compete at the highest level.
Ivanovic became the first Serbian woman to win a grand slam tournament when she beat Russian Dinara Safina in the 2008 French Open final, following in the footsteps of compatriot Novak Djokovic who clinched the Australian Open title the same year.
"There is no other way to say it. I have decided to retire from professional tennis. It has been a difficult decision but there is so much to celebrate," Belgrade-born Ivanovic said on Facebook.
"I began dreaming about tennis when I was five. My dear parents backed me all the way and by the time I was the world number one and won Roland Garros in 2008, I have seen the heights I never dreamt of achieving," she added.
Her French Open victory catapulted Ivanovic to the summit of the WTA tour rankings but she only occupied top spot for a few weeks and dropped to 22nd at the end of 2009 after a dramatic loss of form.
She returned to the top five in 2014 and reached the French Open semi-finals in 2015, but slipped out of the leading 60 this year after losing to little-known Czech Denisa Allertova in the U.S. Open first round, her final match on the WTA tour.
"I played so many memorable matches. But staying at those heights in any professional sport requires top physical form and it's well-known that I have been hampered by injuries," Ivanovic said.
"I can only play if I perform up to my own high standards. I can no longer do that so it's time to move on."
Striking a happy figure as she announced her retirement with a smile in a live address to her fans, Ivanovic also revealed her future plans.
"Don't be sad, be optimistic alongside me. My love and my greatest thank you to all of you," she said.
Ivanovic, the world number 63, married former Germany soccer international Bastian Schweinsteiger this year.
"I am so excited about what comes next. I will become an ambassador of sport and healthy life and will also explore opportunities in business, beauty and fashion, among other endeavors," she said.
"Beyond that, who knows. All I can say is that I have lived my dreams and really hope to have helped others do so as well."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)