CINCINNATI Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli shocked the tennis world on Wednesday by announcing her retirement from the sport at the age of 28.
After a second round loss to Romanian Simona Halep at the Western and Southern Open, the Frenchwoman, ranked seventh in the world, walked into the media room and told stunned reporters: "I just can't do it anymore".
Her surprise announcement comes just six weeks after she beat Germany's Sabine Lisicki in the Wimbledon final to claim her one and only grand slam title.
"Well, it's never easy and obviously there is never a time to say it or whatever, but that was actually the last match of my career," said Bartoli, wiping the tears from her eyes. "It's time for me to retire and to call it a career.
"I feel it's time for me to walk away."
Bartoli had given no hint that she was considering retirement and in fact seemed focused on preparing for the North American hardcourt season and the upcoming U.S. Open.
She played last week in Toronto and was seeing her first action in Cincinnati having received a first round bye.
But a 3-6 6-4 6-1 loss to Halep looks to have been the last straw.
"It's been a tough decision to take," said Bartoli, an eight-time winner on the WTA tour.
"I've been a tennis player for a long time and I had the chance to make my biggest dream a reality.
"You know, everyone will remember my Wimbledon title. No one will remember the last match I played here. I made my dream a reality and it will stay forever with me, but now my body just can't cope with everything."
WTA chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster paid tribute to Bartoli's "long, successful career".
"She is an inspirational champion and a great ambassador for women's tennis that has dedicated her life to the sport and given so much back to the game," she said in a statement issued in the early hours of Thursday morning.
"I am so proud of her for who she is, her values and for fighting to realise her dream of winning Wimbledon."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)