PARIS Gustavo Kuerten bid farewell to tennis Sunday in the first round of the French Open, losing 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to Paul-Henri Mathieu at the site of his biggest triumphs.
The former top-ranked Brazilian won three French Open titles.
"Here, it is my life, my passion and my love," Kuerten said in French. "It's great to have my family here, my coach. But more important was the love you gave me."
The 31-year-old Kuerten has been bothered by a hip injury since 2001. Since having surgery in 2004, he has played in only 19 tournaments and won five matches. This year's French Open was his first appearance in a Grand Slam tournament since the 2005 U.S. Open and he said beforehand it would be his last event at any level.
"It's incredible how fast it all went," said Kuerten, who won 20 titles during a pro career that began in 1995. In 2000, he became the first South American to finish the year at the top of the ATP rankings.
Kuerten plans to play in the doubles tournament in Paris.
Third-seeded Novak Djokovic, No. 6 David Nalbandian, No. 10 Andy Murray and No. 7 James Blake advanced to the second round, but 1998 French Open champion Carlos Moya lost to Eduardo Schwank 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-7 (1), 4-6, 6-3.
Blake's 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (3) victory over Rainer Schuettler made him the first American man to win a match at Roland Garros since 2006.
In the women's draw, eight-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams beat Ashley Harkleroad 6-2, 6-1 and last year's French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic struggled before beating Sofia Arvidsson 6-2, 7-5. The first seeded player to lose was No. 15 Nicole Vaidisova. She reached the French Open semifinals in 2006 and the quarterfinals last year, but was upset by Iveta Benesova 7-6 (2), 6-1.
Kuerten saved one match point before sending a weak shot into the net. Then he sat back in his chair and pulled a towel over his head.
Shaking, he emerged with his eyes red and finally shook hands with Mathieu.
Kuerten was then led to the center of the court, where he was given a glass trophy showing a slice of a clay court.
Kuerten the last No. 1-seeded man to win the title in Paris in 2001 entered what he said would be his last tournament as the lowest-ranked man in the field at No. 1,141. He got his spot in the draw as a wild card.
Kuerten's final match was played on Court Philippe Chatrier, the main stadium at Roland Garros and the same venue where he won French Open titles in 1997, 2000 and '01.
Despite playing a Frenchman on Sunday, Kuerten was cheered on by most in the crowd complete with several Brazilian flags waving in the stands and group of people with giant gold-colored letters spelling out G-U-G-A, his nickname.
Kuerten showed some of the guile that got him to the top of the tennis world, including a soft, spinning ace while trailing 5-2 in the first set. He followed that with a much harder serve that also went for an ace.
In the second set, Kuerten was broken in the ninth game and trailed 5-4. During the changeover, he sipped water while a trainer massaged his lower back.
With Kuerten down a break in the third set, the fans started chanting, "Guga! Guga!"
And during the final changeover, Kuerten put his racket around Mathieu's neck as if to choke him, but just smiled as the crowd cheered yet again.
In January, Kuerten announced that this would be his final year. He pulled out of last month's Barcelona Open because of a muscle injury.
Djokovic survived a rough start to his quest for a second straight Grand Slam title, holding off Denis Gremelmayr 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.
The Australian Open champion was broken in his first two service games on center court and trailed 5-1 in the first set before finding some of his game in the second.
"I wasn't underestimating my opponent, even though it looked like that in the first set," said Djokovic, who reached the semifinals at Roland Garros last year. "He played a couple of semifinals in good tournaments, and he played some three sets with Roger Federer, so I knew that he's a tough player to play against on this surface."
In the third set, Djokovic started to show his frustration, throwing his racket into the red clay after Gremelmayr hit a forehand winner in the opening game.
Djokovic is trying to become the first man since Jim Courier in 1992 to win the Australian and French Opens in the same year.
At last year's French Open, American men went 0-9 in the first round, with Blake losing to Ivo Karlovic.
"We all feel like, you know, last year was an aberration that should never happen again," Blake said, "and this year we're definitely looking for better results."
Blake is 9-6 on clay this year, but he struggled to finally beat Schuettler, who has lost in the first round at Roland Garros in seven of his nine appearances.
The second-ranked Ivanovic, who became the first player representing Serbia to play in a major final at last year's French Open, had six double-faults on center court and was broken by her Swedish opponent when serving for the first set at 5-1.
"I let my intensity go down for a bit ... and she used it and she started playing much better," Ivanovic said. "But towards the end I'm happy that I found back my game and managed to break her back, and win the second set."
Williams, the 2002 French Open champion, was broken in the first game of the match and trailed 2-0 before winning seven straight games as a light rain fell.
The fifth-seeded Williams, the only woman in the field who has won the clay-court major, had a 10-0 edge in aces.
Ivanovic, who also reached the final at this year's Australian Open, will face Lucie Safarova in the second round. The Czech player beat Sandra Kloesel of Germany 6-1, 6-1.
Vaidisova reached the fourth round at the Australian Open, but she has now lost six straight matches.
"It's always hard to play your best friend," the 19-year-old Vaidisova said.
Nalbandian, a two-time French Open semifinalist, advanced to the second round by beating Carlos Berlocq of Argentina 6-2, 6-4, 6-1. Murray beat Jonathan Eysseric, who turns 18 on Tuesday and was the youngest player in the men's field, 6-2, 1-6, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2.