It seemed like one of those perfect passing-of-the-torch moments, one we might not have seen coming, but in our heart of hearts, could definitely see going forward.
Ana Ivanovic was a promising young player who reached the 2005 French Open quarterfinals at 17, but she was never the next great thing. Two years later, she was a nervous wreck in managing just three games in the '07 French Open final against Justine Henin and then looked shaky again in the '08 Australian Open final against Maria Sharapova.
But at age 20, with the recently retired Henin watching from courtside at Roland Garros in the spring of '08, Ivanovic seized her opportunity with a straight-sets win against No. 13 seed Dinara Safina, taking both the French title and the No. 1 ranking. It was no doubt the highlight of her career, a moment she was never again able to replicate.
After Ivanovic's somewhat startling retirement announcement at age 29 Wednesday, it would be easy now to sum up her 13 years on tour as disappointing or malign her brief existence atop the game.
But to do that would also overlook the same reality that befell Safina, Jelena Jankovic and, to some degree, even Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters, all of whom either never won a Grand Slam after reaching the world No. 1 ranking or only held the top spot for a short period. It didn't help that all played in the same era as Serena Williams.
Still, Ivanovic said she was proud of her career achievements Wednesday, as she ticked them off on a Facebook Live video.
"I've seen the heights I've never dreamt of achieving," she said. "I won 15 WTA tour titles, [played in] three Grand Slam finals, Fed Cup finals, and I played so many memorable matches. I would say not so bad for a tiny slip of a girl from Serbia."
Even more impressive for a girl who came up through war-torn Serbia, at one point practicing in an empty swimming pool before moving to Switzerland at 15 years old to train.
With her signature forehand, flawless beauty and one of the most open and gracious personalities in the game, Ivanovic easily built a fan base. After failing to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal in 17 majors after her French Open glory, she fell to No. 65 in the rankings. But Ivanovic persevered, finishing 2014 at No. 5. And when she reached the semis of the French Open a year later, it seemed like she had another great run, and possibly another Slam title, in her future.
But it was not to be. Ivanovic was consistently stymied by injuries. She withdrew from the rest of 2016 after a first-round loss at the US Open with wrist and toe ailments.
"I can only play if I can perform up to my own high standards, and I can no longer do that, so it's time to move on," she said.
In addition to being a Grand Slam champion and a former No. 1, her legacy will be that of a girl, as she described, who first began dreaming of playing tennis at age 5 after watching Monica Seles on television.
In the annals of tennis, however, Ivanovic is likely to be lost in an era that has been dominated by one player. Rather than have this in any way diminish her career, it should only reinforce just how dominant that one player has been.
Williams has made us take for granted how truly difficult it is to both achieve and hold on to the No. 1 ranking -- 309 weeks (including 186 straight) will do that.
Off the court, Ivanovic, who married Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in July, said she will continue her work in business and with UNICEF.
"All I can say is I've lived my dreams, and I really hope to help others do so as well," she said. "So don't be sad, be optimistic alongside me."
And be mindful that in the era of the greatest player of all time, being remembered at all is worth something.