TORONTO — Serena Williams wore her sport face when she stepped out into the stadium for her first match since telling the world she is prepared to depart skilled tennis.
Greeted by a standing ovation, the 23-time Grand Slam champion did not smile. She did not wave. She took a sip from a plastic bottle as she walked in. Some people in the group captured the second with the cameras on their cellphones. Others held aloft hand-drawn indicators — oh, so many indicators — with messages corresponding to “Queen” or “Thank you.”
No one is aware of precisely what number of extra matches Williams will play earlier than she places her rackets away for good, however the 40-year-old American exited the National Bank Open on Wednesday evening with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Belinda Bencic.
While there have been some acquainted fist pumps and yells of “Come on!” during competition, it was only afterward that Williams really allowed her feelings to show, her voice shaking and her eyes welling during an on-court interview when Bencic ceded the spotlight.
“Numerous feelings, clearly,” Williams informed spectators who provided her encouragement all through the clear, 75-degree night.
The second-round match on the hard-court tuneup for the US Open got here a day after she introduced “the countdown has begun” on her playing career, saying she wants to have another child and pursue Business interests.
She did not state precisely what her last event will be, but did make it sound as if her final farewell will come at the US Open, which begins Aug. 29 in New York. Williams has won the singles title at Flushing Meadows a half-dozen times — first in 1999; most recently in 2014 — to go along with seven championships apiece at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, plus three at the French Open.
“It’s been a fairly fascinating 24 hours,” Williams stated after Wednesday’s match.
“I’m terrible at goodbyes,” she added, her hand on her chest, “however goodbye, Toronto!”
Next up on her schedule is the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati subsequent week, one other occasion that serves as preparation for the yr’s final Grand Slam match.
Williams, a three-time champion in Canada, began this match, fittingly sufficient, with an ace. Delivered one other later in that sport, too, displaying off the very good serve that helped her to so many match victories, so many match titles, so many weeks at No. 1 in the rankings.
That elite skill confirmed up sometimes in opposition to Bencic, whether or not the trio of unreturnable serves to shut out that opening sport or a later put away swinging volley accented with a shout and a tug on the brim of her white visor.
But due to a leg harm that sidelined her for the final half of 2021 and first half of 2022, she was playing for less than the third time in the previous 12 months. There have been indicators of that, as properly, and of why Williams is now not the dominant pressure she was for thus lengthy.
The breaks of her serve that have been by no means fairly so frequent when she was youthful and on the top of her powers. The not-quite-on-target groundstrokes. The incapability to supply up an excessive amount of resistance whereas receiving serve; she solely earned one break level in the primary set, lacking a return lengthy to expend that likelihood, and none in the second.
“I wish I could have played better,” Williams said, “however Belinda performed so properly at the moment.”
It didn’t Help Williams that she was dealing with an opponent 15 years her junior and fairly gifted, as well: Bencic is ranked twelfth, gained a gold medal for Switzerland on the Tokyo Olympics final yr and has been a Grand Slam semifinalist.
“It’s always an honor to be on the court with her,” Bencic said, “and that is why I believe tonight is about her.”
Bencic took dwelling the Toronto trophy at age 18 in 2015, when she eradicated Williams in the semifinals to earn the excellence of being the youngest girl to beat a participant many take into account, as one do-it-yourself poster in the stands declared Wednesday, the “GOAT” — biggest of all time.
In the late match, Bianca Andreescu — the ultimate Canadian left in the singles draw — beat Alize Cornet 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Andreescu gained the match in 2019 when Williams retired in the ultimate match due to again issues.
Bencic superior to face two-time main champion Garbine Muguruza, who beat Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-4. Seeded gamers who left the draw Wednesday included No. 2 Anett Kontaveit, No. 4 Paula Badosa, No. 5 Ons Jabeur, No. 13 Leylah Fernandez and No. 16 Jelena Ostapenko.
Jabeur, the Wimbledon runner-up final month, stopped in the second set in opposition to Qinwen Zheng due to stomach ache. Badosa cited muscle cramping for her mid-match retirement whereas trailing Yulia Putintseva.
Fernandez, the Canadian who was the US Open runner-up final yr, misplaced 7-6 (4), 6-1 to Beatriz Haddad Maia, whereas Alison Riske-Amritraj defeated 2017 French Open champion Ostapenko 7-6 (2), 0-6, 7-5.