Just a day after announcing she plans to wind down her tennis career, Serena Williams exited the National Bank Open in Toronto Wednesday night with a second-round loss to Belinda Bencic.
Bencic, the No. 12 seed from Switzerland, won in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.
However, the spotlight was on Williams before the match even began as many fans were eager to witness what was likely the last time she’ll play at the Canadian tournament.
In a post-match interview on the court, Williams said she had “a lot of emotions, obviously.
“It’s been a pretty interesting 24 hours,” Williams said, and with a hand on her chest, she added, “I’m terrible at goodbyes, but goodbye, Toronto!”
Fans flocked to Sobeys Stadium in Toronto Wednesday night to say goodbye to the 23-time Grand Slam champion. The stadium packed in 12,500 fans, and for the first time ever, the tournament set up an outdoor viewing area to fit another 5,000 fans.
Prior to the match, a video played with greetings from retired tennis great Billie Jean King, some rising stars like Coco Gauff and others, as well as Canadian hockey icon Wayne Gretzky.
“Serena Williams, Willie O’Ree in hockey, Jackie Robinson in baseball. They changed everything,” Gretzky said. “They changed the culture of sports and what Serena did for boys and girls throughout the world is spectacular. Serena, congratulations on a wonderful career.”
In a first-person essay published Tuesday on Vogue.com, Williams wrote that although she didn’t want to use the word “retirement,” she acknowledged that her tennis career is winding down and that she wants to focus on her family.
“I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis,” Williams wrote.
“If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family,” she continued. “Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity. Don’t get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia. … But I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give.”
In her essay, Williams seemed to indicate that her final farewell will be at the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 29 in New York.
–Field Level Media