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Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Beginning of Serena Williams’ Hopefully Not-Too-Long Goodbye

Serena Williams, a winner who has said that she despises parting ways with people, might have left the sport of tennis in a variety of different ways.

By means of a press release or an Instagram post; via an interview conducted after the match; or by just walking away and being absent without formally announcing her departure.

Instead, Williams has allowed herself and her huge fanbase some runway to do the job exactly right by making it clear this week that the end is very close. This provides a longer — but not too prolonged — time to do credit to Williams’s lengthy and spectacular career.

The first opportunity presented itself in Toronto on a warm Wednesday night in front of a crowded stadium against a difficult and seasoned opponent named Belinda Bencic. It came as no surprise that Bencic’s flowing and counterpunching style was too much for Williams, who is now 40 years old.

Bencic won the match in the second round of the National Bank Open in straight sets (6-2, 6-4), but the outcome of the match on Wednesday was not the most important thing, as Bencic pointed out correctly. It was about the event that was taking place.

Bencic gracefully and immediately stood aside after her victory to allow Williams to take centre stage and take control of the microphone, despite the fact that on-court interviews are often reserved for the champion.

Since Williams made his debut in Canada 27 years ago, the time there has, above all else, been a fascinating ride. She made her professional debut in 1995 at the Bell Challenge, a tournament that has since been discontinued in Quebec City. She did so at the age of 14, in part to avoid being subject to age limitations that the women’s tour was shortly to enforce.

The fact that she was eliminated in the first round of qualifying by the American Annie Miller, who was ranked 149th in the world at the time, was in no way predictive of her future success. Since then, Williams has established herself as the best female tennis player of the 21st century and joined the exclusive company of Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and Margaret Court on the very small list of the most successful players in the history of the sport.

Williams has won a total of 50 tour singles championships, including three at the Canadian Open (in 2001, 2011, and 2013), which brings his total number of Grand Slam singles wins to 23, one less of Court’s record total of 24.

In spite of the fact that she would not win a fourth championship in Canada, she still managed to generate a great deal of enthusiasm and feeling while competing in what would be her last professional match in the country.

In a heartfelt first-person article that was published in Vogue on Tuesday, Williams revealed that she will soon be retiring from professional tennis after the U.S. Open, which she still plans to compete in. That was the day after she defeated Nuria Parrizas-Diaz of Spain in the first round of the singles competition in Toronto, which was her first victory in a singles match in more than a year.

A video was played for the audience before Serena Williams took the court. In the video, retired champion Billie Jean King and several rising stars on the tour, including Coco Gauff, Leylah Fernandez, and Bianca Andreescu, wished Williams good luck. Williams entered the court with her head bowed and a serious expression on her face. The Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who is widely regarded as one of the very best players in the history of the sport, recently shared some parting words with his opponent.

She is, quite appropriately, still figuring out her range, and she can no longer go to the corners or locate the lines on the run as well as she did when she was in her heyday. However, when she is in the right position, she still has the strength and ball-striking talents to do great damage. Against Bencic, she periodically clicked into higher gears, but she was unable to muster the consistency necessary to pose a true danger to her opponent.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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