Tennis legend Serena Williams eliminated from National Bank Open in Canadian swan song

No one inside the stadium wanted it to end.

And maybe no one there wanted to believe that Serena Williams’ professional tennis career in Canada had just come to an end.

A crowd of 9,500 fans inside Sobeys Stadium in Toronto cheered wildly on Wednesday night as Williams wiped tears from their eyes – just 24 hours after Williams announced his impending retirement, the emotion of the moment swelled grabbed the 40-year-old woman.

In a match that lasted one hour and 17 minutes, Swiss player Belinda Bencic beat one of the best to play the match in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.

“There are a lot of emotions. I still love playing here in Canada. I would have liked to be better, but Belinda played so well today. The 24 hours have been pretty interesting,” Williams said.

In a lengthy post-match on-court interview, Williams tried to find words to face the moment – ​​that 27 years after her professional tennis debut at a Tier 3 tournament in Quebec, it would be like this. that his professional tennis career in Canada could end.

“It was so overwhelming,” Williams said, fighting back tears.

“I’m terrible with goodbyes. But goodbye Toronto.”

She continued, interrupted by fans saying they loved her.

“I love you all,” Williams shouted back.

“There have been great times here and I will return as a visitor to this city. It was remarkable. I had some amazing matches here. And fun times.”

And then, after receiving flowers and paintings and Toronto Maple Leaf and Raptors jerseys, the 23-time Slam singles winner took her final walk off the court in Canada.

Williams hits a return shot against Bencic in front of a crowd of 9,500 fans at Sobeys Stadium on Wednesday. (Carlos Osorio/CBC)

The crowd screamed. They waved. Many cried. Williams cried, wiping her face with a towel as she waved to the crowd.

“Thank you for all the support,” Williams said.

The scene couldn’t have been more different on Wednesday night than the one Williams faced when she was just 14 and playing her first professional game in Canada.

No one knew who she was. And certainly no one had any idea what she was about to become – and who she would dominate for the next two decades.

When she played that qualifier in Quebec 27 years ago, she was beaten in straight sets in less than an hour. There were no fans. No player introductions. It was unforgettable.

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Tennis legend Serena Williams eliminated from National Bank Open

Tennis legend Serena Williams plays one of her last matches in Toronto

Tennis icon Serena Williams played one of the last matches of her career Wednesday night at the National Bank Open in Toronto, just a day after making her life-changing retirement announcement.

And while it was also a straight-set loss that night, this match, the scenes that unfolded inside Toronto Stadium were unforgettable.

To his credit, Bencic was sensational on a night dedicated to Williams. And the Swiss tennis player knew it too.

Bencic looked calm and poised throughout the night, battling a raucous crowd who were all against her to quickly take a 3-1 lead.

On an idyllic night for tennis in Toronto, with a light breeze swirling around Sobeys Stadium and the sun shining down on the fans seated in the East Stand, Williams tried to keep up with the younger, faster and more powerful of Bencic.

But time and time again, Bencic proved to be too much. She secured a first-set victory, 6-2, in just 41 minutes.

Tennis legend Serena Williams eliminated from National Bank Open in
Serena Williams wipes away a tear before leaving the court on Wednesday night following her loss to Belinda Bencic. (Carlos Osorio/CBC)

Throughout the night, the crowd tried to cheer Williams on with shouts and cheers. On several occasions, the head referee asked the fans to be quiet. But they pushed on, hoping they could rally Williams.

And it seemed to work at the start of the second set.

Williams held serve and appeared to have a jump in her set. She was moving up the court, hitting the ball harder and clearing out some of the unforced errors that plagued her in the first set.

But with the score tied at 4-4, Bencic managed to break Williams to take a 5-4 lead and serve for the game. She made no mistakes and finished it in no time.

And just like that, it was over.

But before all the drama and the emotion and the end, there was the celebration, the recognition and the respect.

It’s hard to escape the omnipresence of Williams around the Toronto stadium. A larger than life banner of her was draped outside the room.

On pillars inside the hall are photos of Williams highlighting his three Canadian championships.

Minutes before Williams took to the field, there was a video tribute inside the venue as fans poured into their seats.

Another tennis legend, Billie Jean King started.

“She used tennis as a platform far beyond just sport. Make it better for women, especially women of color. You are the best,” King said as part of her tribute.

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is done. Greatness recognizing greatness.

Fans held signs saying “Toronto loves Serena” and “GOAT” – the greatest of all time.

And it’s hard to argue with that.

Williams has won 855 games. She won four Olympic gold medals. 47 career titles on hard court.

Three times, Williams has won the Canadian title – all in 2001, then again 10 years later in 2011. Her last victory in Canada was in 2013. She is the last American to win in Canada.

Its longevity and ability to stay excellent through it all is unparalleled. Ten of his 23 Slam titles have come after the age of 30.

And now, after all these victories and all these years, it is rapidly coming to an end.

Williams will leave the court one last time at the US Open in New York next month. She loves playing there – at Arthur Ashe Court, the largest tennis stadium in the world.

It’s probably because on the biggest stages of her career, Williams met the pressure, the expectations and the detractors and every opponent she faced with a fighting spirit few could match.

WATCH | Toronto fans pay tribute to Serena Williams:

1660189065 3 Tennis legend Serena Williams eliminated from National Bank Open

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