Serena Williams, who on Tuesday said that she would soon call time on her storied tennis career, departed the WTA Toronto Masters for the last time on Wednesday with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Belinda Bencic.
The second-round defeat by Switzerland’s reigning Olympic gold medalist was hardly unexpected, with the 40-year-old Williams competing in only her third match of the year.
Bencic fired eight aces and broke Williams twice in the first set and once in the second, advancing on her first match point after 78 minutes.
However, as Bencic herself said in a post-match interview on court: “Tonight is about her.”
Williams’ farewell on-court interview was threaded with emotion.
“I love playing here, I’ve always loved playing here,” she said, choking up as fans who cheered her throughout the match called out their appreciation. “I wish I could have played better tonight, but Belinda was playing so well.”
Williams, who turns 41 next month, said on Tuesday in an essay in Vogue magazine and an Instagram post that “the countdown has begun” to her retirement from the sport.
Williams did not specify an actual retirement date, but is expected to compete next week in Cincinnati before travelling to the US Open, which starts on Aug. 29.
“It’s been a pretty interesting 24 hours,” said Williams, who remains one shy of the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles won by Margaret Court.
“Like I said in my article, I’m terrible at goodbyes,” she said, her voice breaking. “But, goodbye,” she said, then adding with a laugh “Toronto.”
“I’ve always had an amazing time here on and off the court,” Williams said. “I’ve had some really good matches and some really cool wins. It’s been a joy playing here all of those years.”
Her appearance highlighted a day that saw US teenager Coco Gauff — who says Williams was “the reason why I play tennis” — overcome 13 double faults to battle past Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and into the third round.
Gauff eliminated Rybakina with a 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/3) win, while world No. 1 Iga Swiatek sailed past Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-2 in 55 minutes.
Defending champion Camila Giorgi made it to the third round with a 6-3, 7-5 defeat of Belgian Elise Mertens.
Spanish fourth seed Paula Badosa lasted just 13 games before retiring as she trailed 7-5, 1-0 against Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.
Simona Halep beat Zhang Shuai of China 6-4, 6-2.
Other winners were: Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil, Garbine Muguruza of Spain, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, Bianca Andreescu of Canada, Zheng Qinwen of China, Jessica Pegula and Alison Riske of the US, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Jil Teichmann of Switzerland.
In the women’s doubles, Chinese pair Xu Yifan and Zhaoxuan Yang beat Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and Shuko Aoyama of Japan 6-2, 2-6, 10-7.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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