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Serena Williams turns emotional in her farewell on-court interview in Toronto

Serena Williams

Bengaluru, August 11: Serena Williams' Toronto sojourn is over after she was knocked out of the Canadian Open 2-6, 4-6 by 12th seed Belinda Bencic on Wednesday (August 10) with the American tennis great turning very emotional in her on-court interview.

The second-round defeat by Switzerland's reigning Olympic gold medallist was hardly unexpected, with Serena competing in only her third match of 2022.

The 40-year-old, playing for the first time since declaring her intention to retire after this month's US Open, was no match for Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Bencic.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion was unable to claim back-to-back WTA singles wins for the first time since last year's French Open, having defeated Nuria Parrizas-Diaz for her first victory in 430 days.

Serena Williams announces retirement, likely to hang up tennis racquet after the US OpenSerena Williams announces retirement, likely to hang up tennis racquet after the US Open

Bencic triumphed in one hour and 17 minutes, winning 84.2 per cent of first-serve points and converted five of eight break points throughout the match.

Serena's power was on show with 13 winners, but Bencic was physically more capable and decisively managed 25 winners with only 13 unforced errors.

Serena Williams back to winning waysSerena Williams back to winning ways

Threaded with emotion

Threaded with emotion

Bencic fired eight aces and broke Serena twice in the first set and once in the second, advancing on her first match point. But as Bencic herself said in the post-match interview on court: "Tonight is about her."

And as expected Serena's farewell on-court interview was threaded with emotion.

Countdown starts

Countdown starts

"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."

Serena, who turns 41 next month, had beaten Spaniard Diaz for her first singles victory since the 2021 French Open, 14 months ago. But it sent shockwaves through the sport when she revealed in an essay in Vogue magazine and an Instagram post that "the countdown has begun" to her retirement from the sport.

Goodbye Toronto

Goodbye Toronto

Serena 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 August 29. She has lifted the US Open title six times, including her first Grand Slam triumph at the age of 17 in 1999.

"It's been a pretty interesting 24 hours," said Serena, 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." "It's been a joy playing here all of those years."

For Olympia

For Olympia

Serena's match was preceded by a video tribute played for fans. Before she left the court she was presented with jerseys from the NBA's Toronto Raptors and NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs - and with a child's version of the same for daughter Olympia.

In explaining that she was "evolving away" from tennis in the Vogue article, Serena said she wanted to focus on family life and new business ventures.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Story first published: Thursday, August 11, 2022, 14:14 [IST]
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