Marat Safin bids farewell to fans after his final professional match
Russia's Marat Safin bowed out of tennis with a defeat at the hands of Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in the second round of the Paris Masters.
Despite a capacity crowd pulling for the two-time major winner, Safin lost 6-4 5-7 6-4 to the US Open champion.
Safin beat Pete Sampras in straight sets to win the 2000 US Open title before injuries stunted his progress.
But the 29-year-old fought his way back to the top and beat Lleyton Hewitt in the final of the 2005 Australian Open.
"Today I will put all my memories, all my wins and losses in a small box," said Safin, who was presented with a special trophy after the game.
"Today a door is closed, hopefully another one will open."
"This is where it all started and this where it finishes," added Safin, who burst into the limelight as a teenage qualifier at the 1998 French Open, posting wins over Andre Agassi and Gustavo Kuerten. "There was no better place to do this."
Safin, who saved three match points to squeeze past French qualifier Thierry Ascione in the first round on Monday, fought bravely against the Argentine world number five.
Showing glimpses of his old form, the world number 65, who had not won a title since the 2005 Australian Open, won a tight second set but was broken in the third game of the decider.
Safin, who held the number one spot for several weeks in 2000 and 2001 and is a three-time winner of the Paris event, saved a match point at 5-3 down, but Del Potro then served out for the match.
I've lived my life the way I wanted to, whether scaling the mountains, partying long into the night or having fun playing soccer
The gifted but erratic Russian was once regarded as one of the world's most spectacular players and will also be remembered for his rebellious spirit and dry humour.
After his early Wimbledon exit to compatriot Dmitry Tursunov in 2004, Safin said: "I don't like to play on this surface. After a while, I get bored. I completely lost motivation, and I gave up. I love tennis, but I just don't like grass."
However, the mercurial Safin, his ranking plummeting, made the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2008.
After a match in Canada in 2004, when he was asked about his inner demons, Safin responded by going off at a lengthy tangent about hippos, zebras and monkeys.
And he also celebrated winning a point in a French Open marathon against Felix Mantilla by dropping his shorts, before railing against tournament officials who penalised him a point.
"All of the people who run the sport, they have no clue," said Safin. "It is a pity that tennis is really going down the drain. Every year it's getting worse and worse. There has to be radical change, and I hope it will happen soon."
Despite his regular brushes with the sport's officials, Safin was always tremendously popular with fans and fellow players alike, as illustrated by the standing ovation he received after his final game and the hugs and handshakes of a host of current and former rivals.
Safin won 15 titles in a career spanning 12 years, reached the final of the 2002 and 2004 Australian Open and the semi-finals of the French Open in 2002, as well as leading his country to Davis Cup glory in 2002 and 2006.
"I've lived my life the way I wanted to, whether scaling the mountains, partying long into the night or having fun playing soccer," he said recently.
"As for my tennis career, I probably could have won a few more [titles] but if it was up to me I wouldn't change a thing."