Serena Williams has lost her first match since announcing her retirement


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Serena Williams put on her game face as she stepped into the stadium for her first match since announcing to the world that she was ready to retire from professional tennis.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion was greeted with a standing ovation. She didn’t wave. She took a sip from a plastic bottle as she walked in. Some people in the crowd captured the moment on cameras on their cellphones. Others held up hand-drawn signs with messages like “Queen” or “Thank you” — oh, so many signs.

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

A few familiar fist pumps and “come on!” During the contest, Williams really let her emotions show, her voice shaking and her eyes welling up during an on-court interview when Bencic relinquished the spotlight.

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Serena Williams carries flowers and waves to fans after her loss to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland at the National Bank Open tennis tournament in Toronto on August 10, 2022.

Serena Williams carries flowers and waves to fans after her loss to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland at the National Bank Open tennis tournament in Toronto on August 10, 2022.
(Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

“A lot of emotions, obviously,” Williams told the crowd, which cheered her on throughout 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.

She did not say exactly what her last event would be but it appeared that her final farewell would come at the US Open, which starts on August 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 with seven championships each at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, plus three at the French Open.

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

“I’m terrible at goodbyes,” she crossed her arms over her chest, “but goodbye, Toronto!”

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Serena Williams runs down a shot against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland during the National Bank Open tennis tournament on August 10, 2022 in Toronto.

Serena Williams runs down a shot against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland during the National Bank Open tennis tournament on August 10, 2022 in Toronto.
(The Canadian Press via Nathan Dennett/AP)

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

Williams, a three-time champion in Canada, opened the match with an ace. Then another delivery in that game, she won many matches, many tournament titles, many weeks ranked no.

That elite ability was shown on occasion against Bencic, with an unreturnable three to seal that opening game or a subsequent putaway with a swinging volley to emphasize the shout and tug on the edge of her white mask.

But due to a leg injury in the latter half of 2021 and the first half of 2022, he was only playing for the third time in the last 12 months. There were signs of that, too, and Williams hasn’t been a dominant force for quite some time.

Breaks of her serve were never frequent when she was young and at the height of her powers. Aimless groundstrokes. Inability to offer much resistance while receiving service; She earned just one break point in the first set, breaking back long enough to lose that chance, and none in the second.

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

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Belinda Bencic returns to Serena Williams at the National Bank Open tennis tournament on August 10, 2022 in Toronto.

Belinda Bencic returns to Serena Williams at the National Bank Open tennis tournament on August 10, 2022 in Toronto.
(The Canadian Press via Nathan Dennett/AP)

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

“It’s always an honor to be on the court with her,” Bencic said, “and that’s why I feel for her tonight.”

Bencic took home the Toronto trophy in 2015 at the age of 18, becoming the youngest woman to beat a player considered by many to be the youngest when she eliminated Williams in the semifinals, a homemade poster in the stands announced Wednesday, “GOAT” — an all-time great.

In the late match, Bianca Andreescu – the final Canadian player left in the singles draw – defeated Alize Cornet 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Andreescu won the tournament in 2019 when Williams retired in the final due to back problems.

Bencic advanced to face two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza, who defeated Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-4. The ranked players who exited the draw on Wednesday were no. 2 Annette Kontaveit, no. 4 Paula Badosa, no. 5 Ans Jaber, no. 13 Laila Fernandes and no. 16 including Jelena Ostapenko.

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Serena Williams reacts after losing to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland at the National Bank Open tennis tournament on August 10, 2022 in Toronto.

Serena Williams reacts after losing to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland at the National Bank Open tennis tournament on August 10, 2022 in Toronto.
(Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

Jaber, who was the Wimbledon runner-up last month, stopped in the second set against Zheng Qinwen due to stomach pain. Badosa cited muscle cramps for her mid-match retirement while trailing Yulia Putintseva.

Canada’s Fernandez, who was last year’s US Open runner-up, lost to Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-6 (4), 6-1, while Alison Riske-Amritraj beat 2017 French Open champion Ostapenko 7-6 (2), 0. -6, 7-5.



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