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Friday, March 31, 2023

Serena loses first match since getting ready to retire

TORONTO ( Associated Press) — Serena Williams wore her sporting face to let the world know she was ready to leave professional tennis as she stepped into the stadium for her first match.

Greeting from a standing ovation, the 23-time Grand Slam champion did not smile. He didn’t wave. As he entered, he took a sip from a plastic bottle. Some in the crowd captured the moment with cameras on their cell phones. Others had hand-drawn signs — oh, so many signs — with messages like “Queen” or “Thank You.”

No one knows how many more Williams will play before she puts her racket away for good, and the 40-year-old American pulled out of the National Bank Open on Wednesday night with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Belinda Bencic. thrown out.

While there were some familiar fist pumps and “Come on!” During the competition, it was only after Williams was allowed to really show her emotions, her voice trembling and her eyes fixed during an on-court interview when Bencic handed the spotlight.

“A lot of emotion, obviously,” Williams told the audience, who encouraged her during the clear, 75-degree evening.

The second-round match in a hard-court tuneup for the US Open came a day after she announced “the countdown has begun” on her playing career, saying she wanted to have another child and pursue business interests. wants to increase

She didn’t say exactly what her last event would be, but it appeared her final farewell would be at the US Open, which begins in New York on August 29. Williams has won the singles title at Flushing Meadows half a dozen times – the first time in 1999; To go with seven championships at Wimbledon and the Australian Open – as well as three at the French Open – most recently in 2014.

“It’s been an interesting 24 hours,” Williams said after Wednesday’s match.

“I’m terrible at goodbyes,” she said, her hand on her chest, “but bye, Toronto!”

Next on her schedule is the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati next week, another event that serves as preparation for the last Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Williams, a three-time champion in Canada, started the match with an ace. He delivered another one later in that game, showing excellent serve that helped him win so many matches, so many tournament titles, so many weeks that he was No. 1 in the rankings.

That elite ability was sometimes visible against Bencic, whether the irresponsible trio worked to close that opening game or later accented with a screaming swinging volley and a tug on the side of his white hat. goes.

But with a leg injury that sidelined her for the final part of 2021 and the first half of 2022, she was playing only for the third time in the last 12 months. There were signs of it, too, and why Williams is no longer the dominant force she was for so long.

When she was young and at the height of her powers, her service breaks were not so frequent. Not-on-target groundstroke. Inability to offer too much resistance when receiving service; She earned only one break point in the first set, missed a long comeback to squander that opportunity, and none in the second.

“I wish I could have played better,” Williams said, “but Belinda played so well today.”

It didn’t help Williams that she was facing an opponent 15 years her junior and quite a talented, to boot: Bencic is 12th, having won the gold medal for Switzerland at the Tokyo Olympics last year and the Grand Slam. Has been a semifinalist.

“It’s always an honor to be on court with him, and that’s why I think tonight is about him,” Bencic said.

Bencic took home the Toronto Trophy at age 18 in 2015, when she defeated Williams in the semi-finals to win the distinction of being the youngest woman to beat a player, as a homemade poster in the stands announced Wednesday, “Goat” – the greatest of all time.

World Nation News Desk
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