The Serena Williams farewell tour is officially in effect.
A day after she announced her pending retirement from tennis, the 23-time Grand Slam champion took the court on Wednesday to a standing ovation in Toronto at the National Bank Open.
— Arun Srinivasan (@Arunthings) August 10, 2022
The match turned out to be her last at the event. Williams defeated Nuria Parrizas Diaz in opening round play on Monday, her first victory in just her third match of an injury-plagued 2022 season.
On Wednesday, she fell in straight sets (6-2, 6-4) to No. 12 seed and reigning Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. When the match was over, she received another raucous ovation from a Toronto crowd realizing that it had just seen her for the last time.
Williams then spoke publicly for the first time since penning in Tuesday's Vogue essay that "I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me."
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) August 11, 2022
"I love playing here," Williams said in her post-match interview. "I've always loved playing here. I wish I could have played better, but Belinda played so well today. It's been a pretty interesting 24 hours."
After a fan from the crowd shouted "I love you," Williams' emotions began to well up as she bid farewell.
"I'm terrible at goodbyes," Williams continued. "But goodbye. Toronto!"
After being gifted with jerseys from the Raptors and Maple Leafs, Williams was on the verge of tears.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart,' Williams continued. "It's been a joy playing in front of you guys all these years."
She then wiped tears from her face after being presented with flowers on her way off the court.
The scene was a prelude to what promises to be an even more emotional goodbye as Williams eventually bids farewell at the upcoming US Open, which starts on Aug. 29 and will presumably be the last Grand Slam and final event of her professional tennis career.
Up first is a trip to Cincinnati and her final Western & Southern Open.