Serena loses to Bencic in first match of farewell tour

Published August 12, 2022
TORONTO: Serena Williams of the US plays a return to Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic during their Toronto Masters match at Sobeys Stadium.—Reuters
TORONTO: Serena Williams of the US plays a return to Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic during their Toronto Masters match at Sobeys Stadium.—Reuters

TORONTO: The first stop on Serena Williams’ farewell tour came to a quick end as she fell 6-2, 6-4 to Belinda Bencic in second-round action at the WTA Toronto Masters on Wednesday a day after announcing her forthcoming retirement from tennis.

Serena arrived on the court to a standing ovation and had the full support of the capacity crowd throughout the 77-minute match but was unable to conjure up the old magic that helped her lift three titles in Canada.

“It’s been a pretty interesting 24 hours ... I’m terrible at goodbyes. But, goodbye Toronto,” an emotional Serena told the crowd. “I always had amazing times here both on and off the court. I’ll be coming back just as a visitor to the city but otherwise its been remarkable.”

After the match, Serena was presented with team jerseys of Toronto’s NBA and NHL teams for her and her daughter, who was in attendance, as well as a bouquet of flowers that she carried off the court while wiping back tears.

Prior to the match, a tribute video was played featuring comments from tennis pioneer Billie Jean King, current players like Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu as well as ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky and highlights of Serena’s Canadian triumphs.

“It was a lot of emotions obviously,” Serena said about how it felt to take the court. “I love playing here, I’ve always loved playing here. I wish I could’ve played better but Belinda played so well today.”

Bencic fired eight aces and broke Williams twice in the first set and once in the second, advancing on her first match point after 78 minutes.

But as Bencic herself said in the post-match interview on court: “Tonight is about her.”

Up next for Bencic will be Spanish eighth seed Garbine Muguruza, who was a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi.

Serena’s appearance highlighted a day that saw US teenager Coco Gauff overcome 13 double-faults to battle past Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and into the third round.

Gauff beat Rybakina 6-4, 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (7-3) while world number one Iga Swiatek — who beat Gauff in the French Open final this year — sailed past Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-2 in 55 minutes.

Among the others reaching the last 16 of the tune-up event for the Aug. 29-Sept. 11 US Open were defending champion Camila Giorgi, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Jessica Pegula and Aryna Sabalenka.

KYRGIOS STUNS MEDVEDEV

At the ATP Montreal Masters, Nick Kyrgios produced a serve-and-volley masterclass to topple world number one Daniil Medvedev 6-7(2-7), 6-4, 6-2 as the top three seeds tumbled in the second round.

Unseeded American Tommy Paul also came from a set down to send second-seeded Carlos Alcaraz of Spain packing 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 while unseeded Briton Jack Draper beat third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 7-5, 7-6 (7-4).

Britain’s Dan Evans stunned fifth seed Andrey Rublev 6-4, 6-4 but fourth seed Casper Ruud made it safely through with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 victory over the Slovakian Alex Molcan.

Italian Jannik Sinner needed three sets to get past Adrian Mannarino 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 while Alex de Minaur lined up an all-Aussie match against Kyrgios by defeating Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.

Also advancing were Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Frenchman Gael Monfils and Spaniards Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2022

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