Playing her first match since announcing she was getting to the end of her playing career, Serena Williams exited the National Bank Open in Toronto with a 6-2 6-4 loss to 12th seed Belinda Bencic in the second round. Photographer Jimmie48 captured the emotional moments as the tennis legend bid farewell to 22 years of playing in Canada.
A day after telling the world that she’s stepping away from tennis to expand her family and pursue business ventures, the 40-year-old Williams entered the court composed, focused on her match against Bencic. Even though she was greeted by a standing ovation, the 23-time Grand Slam champion stayed in her own zone as she was getting ready to face the player that defeated her in three dramatic sets in the 2015 Toronto semifinals en route to the title.
Only after the Wednesday night’s match at the National Bank Open did Williams let her feelings show, as her voice was shaking during the on-court interview and her eyes were filled with tears.
After her tenth appearance at the tournament, the three-time Toronto champion said, with her hand on her chest:
I’m terrible at goodbyes, but goodbye, Toronto!
In the audience we could see hand-drawn signs, saying: “Serena, thank you for the years!” and “This isn’t the final goodbye. Serena the advocate, the business woman, the icon, remains ready to make more history in this next chapter.”
We still don’t know how many more matches Serena will play before she hangs up her racquet for good, but definitely just a handful. Most media concluded that the US Open would be her last tournament, but even if she continues to play after the season’s final Grand Slam, the end is very near.
Serena’s next event will be the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati next week, as she prepares for her last appearance at the US Open.