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Serena Williams bids emotional farewell to Toronto after loss to Bencic

Serena Williams said the first of many goodbyes tonight in Toronto, after a loss to Belinda Bencic on an emotional evening.

Serena Williams Toronto 2022 Serena Williams waves to the crowd following her loss against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in Toronto || AI / Reuters / Panoramic

There wasn’t a dry eye in the place, and there won’t be many dry eyes in tennis stadiums across North America as Serena Williams, the Open Era leader in Grand Slam singles titles, conducts her farewell tour this summer.

Belinda Bencic, the No 12 seed, defeated the 40-year-old Williams 6-2, 6-4 at the Aviva Centre in Toronto on Wednesday night, but the Swiss couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the legions of fans that came to show their support for a true tennis icon.

“Also for me it was quite overwhelming” (Bencic)

After the match victorious Bencic conducted a brief on-court interview and quickly passed the baton over to the star of the moment.

“Tonight was really special,” Bencic said. “Also for me it was quite overwhelming. I never imagined to play Serena so many times and it’s always an honor to be on the court with her, and that’s why I think tonight is about her, especially here in Toronto.” 

With a crowd that featured her five-year-old daughter Olympia and her husband Alexis erupting in applause, an emotional Williams stepped to the microphone and was on the verge of tears for much of her post-match interview.

“It was a lot of emotions, obviously I love playing here, I’ve always loved playing here,” Williams said, her voice cracking early and often. “I wish I could have played better but Belinda played so well today.”

“It’s been a pretty interesting 24 hours,” she added, referring to the shockwaves she sent through the tennis world by announcing that she intends to end her career, likely after the US Open.

Williams will head to Cincinnati next, where the emotion should reach a fever pitch yet again. Though she is revered everywhere she goes, it is on her home soil that the California-born legend is most adored.

A solid effort, and hope for more wins

Williams faced a daunting challenge against the woman that defeated her in the semi-finals in Toronto in 2015. Though she played well she was not able to break Bencic’s serve and fell in 77 minutes to the No 12 seed.

Williams can take comfort in the fact that she won her first match in over a year on Monday night in Toronto when she defeated Nuria Parrizas Diaz, 6-3, 6-4.

A goodbye fit for a legend

Williams reiterated a sentiment expressed in her Vogue article again on Wednesday night, but at the same time proved herself wrong. She believes she’s bad at goodbyes, but anyone watching could see it wasn’t true. It was a beautiful, electric moment, with the crowd relishing the moment, and he fact that Williams has chosen to share her difficult decision to end her career with the public.

“It’s just been so memorable. Like I said in my article, I’m terrible at goodbyes, but goodbye – Toronto,” she said, clearly not wanting her playing days to end just yet.

Toronto WTA 1000, other second-round matches:

  • Bianca Andreescu vs. Alize Cornet: wednesday
  • Kaia Kanepi vs. Garbine Muguruza: wednesday
  • Qinwen Zheng beat Ons Jabeur (5): 6-1, 2-1 ret.
  • Jil Teichmann beat Anett Kontaveit (2): 6-4, 6-4
  • Aryna Sabalenka (6) beat Sara Sorribes Tormo: 6-4, 6-3
  • Yulia Putintseva beat Paula Badosa (4): 7-5, 1-0 ret.
  • Beatriz Haddad Maia beat Leylah Fernandez (13): 7-6 (4), 6-1
  • Simona Halep (15) beat Shuai Zhang: 6-4, 6-2
  • Iga Swiatek (1) beat Ajla Tomljanovic (Q): 6-1, 6-2
  • Jessica Pegula (7) beat Asia Muhammad (Q): 6-2, 7-5
  • Alison Riske-Amritraj beat Jelena Ostapenko (16): 7-6 (2), 0-6, 7-5
  • Coco Gauff (10) beat Elena Rybakina: 6-4, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (3)
  • Camila Giorgi beat Elise Mertens: 6-3, 7-5
  • Karolina Pliskova (14) beat Amanda Anisimova: 6-1, 6-1
  • Maria Sakkari (3) beat Sloane Stephens: 6-2, 4-6, 6-2
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