“I’m sure she’s just going to be great role model even away from tennis” – Peers react to Serena Williams’ retirement in Toronto

From legend to game changer to the Greatest of All Time.. these were some of the reactions to Serena Williams on the day she announced her retirement

Serena Williams, Emma Raducanu, Leylah Fernandez, 2022 Serena Williams, Emma Raducanu, Leylah Fernandez, 2022 | © Panoramic

Serena Williams was not playing at the National Bank Open in Toronto on Tuesday but the American dominated the press room after the announcement of her impending retirement in a first-person essay in Vogue.

Several of the WTA players were asked about their reaction to Serena’s announcement and there were a couple of things common across most of them. The first being absolute respect for all that she has achieved in her career so far and the second is the appreciation of her impact and achievements off the court as well.

Andreescu : “Schocked”

Bianca Andreescu, who defeated Williams in the finals of Toronto and the US Open during her breakout season in 2019, said altough players knew the day that Serena would retire would eventually come, it was still shocking.

“I feel honored to have gotten that opportunity to play her and even connect with her in some way. I heard that when I was doing a radio interview this morning. I was absolutely shocked. Because I just woke up and I get that and I’m like, What? Because you know that at one point she’s going to retire. But when she actually, you know, is going to announce it, it’s just shocking. Because you think these kind of players will play forever.” Andreescu said.

Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu, US Open, 2019
Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu, US Open, 2019

“But she’s done so much for the sport, for women’s tennis. She has, first of all she’s accomplished a lot. So that’s an inspiration for so many. She’s not afraid to be herself and to show all her emotions on the court, off the court, what she stands for. I think right now she said she’s focusing on a new chapter in her life. So I’m happy for her. I’m just so shocked that she’s retiring, honestly. I’m going to miss watching her play. I know she’s doing a lot of things off the court as well to help inspire. It’s incredible. I hope that I can achieve maybe half of what she achieved and continue on her legacy in some way.”

Well there’s not really been someone who has dominated like her in the women’s game

Emma Raducanu

The reigning US Open champion, Emma Raducanu, who has never faced the American on the tour, said that Serena’s longevity is something that she wants to aspire to and believes Williams changed the sport in several ways.

Raducanu : “She did change the game”

“I mean it’s incredible her career. She has achieved so much. And to see her around in this U.S. swing is really inspiring. Like she keeps playing because she obviously loves the game. And I think that longevity of a career is something that a lot of the players and me especially we aspire to achieve as well,” Raducanu said.

“I think that she definitely changed the game. To dominate that much, I think that it was, well there’s not really been someone who has dominated like her in the women’s game. So I think she did change the game a lot in that respect.”

Leylah Fernandez, the 19-year-old Canadian who was defeated by Raducanu in last year’s US Open final, said that Williams has done incredible things for tennis and for women off-the-court.

“It’s, honestly, very sad news. She’s an icon, she’s a legend. The sport needs her. She’s done incredible things for not only tennis but also for women. She gave us a path to follow. And I feel like a lot of us see her as a great role model. And that we know that she’s done incredible things and we just want to try to reach that.”

“I know that she’s making a decision for herself and we just got to trust that she’s going to do the right things. I’m sure that hopefully maybe she can come back on sport and hopefully help us help the younger generations. I’m sure she’s just going to be great, great role model, even away from tennis.”

“The only one”

Leylah’s sister, Bianca Fernandez who won her doubles first round partnering her sister Leylah, said Serena influenced the game of several younger players, including her own game.

“I’m a little sad. Because when I was a kid she was the only one I ever really watched and enjoyed watching. She kind of inspired me to be a bit more fiery on court and accept that I have emotion. She’s a legend, she’s done so much for the sport. She has inspired me. She has inspired so many girls, boys, adults, all sorts. She has a family. She has stepped into a different part of life. And it’s all her decision and I wish her luck in whatever she does.

“But her attitude and her devotion and her fight, I think I really, it just brought me and I said, Okay, I’ll devote myself like she devotes to the sport, the fight, to the game, to the match, to the point. She just really, she puts herself at a 100 per cent and does not give up.”

The greatest of all time – Rebecca Marino on Serena Williams

Serena Williams at the 2019 US Open
Serena Williams at the 2019 US Open Image Credit: Zuma Panoramic

Rebecca Marino, who never played Serena but faced her sister Venus Williams twice, which included a win over the elder Williams in Washington last week, said that Serena Williams will hold her legacy for a very long time given what all she has accomplished.

“Everyone calls her the GOAT, right? The greatest of all time. So I think she’s going to hold that legacy for a long, long time and inspire a lot of people to try to do the same sort of thing in the future. Which is a big challenge, but definitely something we can aspire to do.”

“I think Serena’s influenced every single player on tour. She’s also brought tennis to a worldwide audience, just in terms of her presence on court and the amount of people she sort of has drawn attention to tennis. I saw the news this morning. I guess a lot of us aren’t terribly surprised. I don’t know. But I think it’s fantastic that she’s at least still playing right now. She had a great match yesterday that she won. She’s still got it. I think it’s great that it’s going to be the US Open that she finishes with. Sort of, All-American kind of gal. And that’s, I think, the place to do it. And she’s had an incredible career.”

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