Ivan Ljubicic bowed out of professional tennis tamely on Sunday with a straight-sets defeat in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters. The former world number three managed to win just three games during the clash against fellow Croatian Ivan Dodig, losing 6-0 6-3 in an hour and 11 minutes to the 59th-ranked player. Afterwards, in a post-match ceremony on court, he was given a special award by ATP boss Brad Drewett and tournament director Zeljko Franulovic. And the 33-year-old was clearly overcome with emotion as some of his career highlights, including victory at Indian Wells in 2010 and a tribute from Roger Federer, were broadcast on the court’s giant screen.
“I felt like it could end up emotional but I didn’t expect it this big, this emotional,” said Ljubicic. “Obviously, it’s the end of something beautiful for me. “It was a tough day for me both on the court and off the court. I knew my mind was everywhere else but on the tennis court.” Famous for his bald head and his ability to play on all surfaces, Ljubicic, whose best year came in 2005 when he reached two Masters Series finals and won the Davis Cup, had announced he would play his last event at home in Monte Carlo. “For me, it’s a special place,” he added. “In 1999, big tennis started here for me, qualifying, beating Andrei Medvedev and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. “In a way, to wrap it up and finish off here… I think it was the right place to do that.”
Dodig said he had taken little pleasure in beating a player he had considered a mentor in the final match of his 15-year career. “I think this is the first time that I’m not happy to win the match,” he said “All players like me, like Mario Ancic, we learnt from him.”