Serena Williams has lost her first match since telling the world she is ready to leave professional tennis.
No one knows exactly how many games Williams will play before he walks away, and the 23-time Grand Slam champion exited the National Bank Open in a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Belinda Bencic on Wednesday night.
“Obviously a lot of emotion,” Williams said, voice shaking, during an on-court interview.
“I wish I could have played better,” she told fans. “Belinda played so well today.”
The second-round match of hard court tuning for the US Open came a day after 40-year-old Williams announced “the countdown has begun” to her playing career and said she wants to have another child and pursue business interests.
She hasn’t said exactly what her final event will be, but it sounded like her final farewell could come at the US Open, which begins August 29 in New York.
“It’s been a pretty interesting 24 hours,” Williams said after Wednesday’s game.
“I’m terrible at goodbyes,” she said, hand on her chest, “but goodbye, Toronto!”
Williams, a three-time champion in the Canadian city, appropriately started the match with an ace. She also delivered another later in that opening game, showing the excellent serve that helped her win so many.
But due to a leg injury that kept her sidelined for the latter half of 2021 and the first half of 2022, she has only played for the third time in the last 12 months and it showed.
The fact that she met an opponent who was 15 years younger and also very talented didn’t help Williams: Bencic is in 12th place, won gold for Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year and was a Grand Slam semi-finalist.
Bencic took home the Toronto trophy in 2015 at the age of 18 when she eliminated Williams in the semifinals to earn the distinction of being the youngest woman to defeat a player many dubbed “GOAT,” eh a homemade poster in the stands on Wednesday declared – the greatest of all time.