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Belgian tennis star retires

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Oct. 19 -- Dominique Van Roost of Belgium, the world's 18th-ranked women's player, announced her retirement Thursday from the professional tennis circuit.

Van Roost, 27, the top-ranked player in Belgium, played her final WTA Tour event last week at the Swisscom Challenge in Zurich, where she lost to Maggie Maleeva of Bulgaria, 6-7 (7-5), 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), in the first round after holding a match point.

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"I felt at the start of this year that I had achieved all the goals I had set out for myself in tennis, and the only one remaining was to win a medal at the Olympic Games," said Van Roost, who won a bronze medal in doubles at Sydney with partner Els Callens. "I knew this was my final goal and I feel very fulfilled with my career. In fact, it has turned out much better than I expected. I realized that every year it was getting tougher physically for me on the Tour and I wanted to leave while I was still at my best."

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Van Roost said she will be withdrawing from events in Tour events in Moscow and Leipzig, but confirmed that she will compete in the season-ending Chase Championships in doubles should she qualify with Callens. The duo currently ranks fifth in points standings and the top eight, as of Nov. 13, will qualify.

Van Roost also said she will represent her country in the Fed Cup semifinals in Las Vegas Nov. 21 and 22 if she is named to the team. She insisted she made her decision to retire before her mother, Louise Ann, died from cancer on March 27.

"I made up my mind before my mother died," Van Roost said. "That was a very difficult time for me, but I am glad I played through it."

Following her mother's death, Van Roost played sparingly and struggled to find the motivation to continue. But at the French Open in April she pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year. Competing on the day of her own 27th birthday, she beat No. 2 seed Lindsay Davenport, 6-7 (7-5), 6-4, 6-3, in the first round.

Her greatest personal moment of the year, however, came at the Olympics, when she and Callens finished third in doubles to bring Belgium its first ever medal in tennis.

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"The Olympic Games was my biggest achievement in tennis, ahead of getting into the top 10," Van Roost said. "As an athlete, it's the highest level you can reach and I am very proud of winning a bronze medal for my country."

The Belgian star began her professional career in 1990 as Dominique Monami. She married her coach, Bart Van Roost, in November of 1995.

Her best achievement on the pro circuit came in 1998 at Filderstadt, Germany, when she beat Venus Williams and Martina Hingis in consecutive matches. She is one of only four players to accomplish that feat.

That year, Van Roost reached No. 9 in the rankings, the first Belgian tennis player to crack the world's top 10. She concluded the year by being voted 1998 Sports Personality of the Year in Belgium.

Van Roost, who has almost $2 million in career earnings on the WTA Tour, joins Tracy Austin, Kimiko Date, Steffi Graf, Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere and Martina Navratilova as players who retired in the last 20 years while still ranked in the top 20.

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