Serena Williams can’t wait to end her career after her first win in over a year

TORONTO — Serena Williams can see the ending now, and it’s keeping her going.

Williams claimed her first win since the 2021 French Open on Monday, beating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4 at the women’s National Bank Open.

“I’m getting closer to the light. Lately that’s all, I can’t wait to get to this light,” she said afterwards, adding that the light represents “freedom.”

“I love to play, it’s amazing. I can’t do this forever so sometimes you just want to do your best to enjoy the moments and do the best you can.

It’s only the second tournament of the season for 40-year-old Williams, who returned to competition just over a month ago at Wimbledon. The 23-time Grand Slam winner fell to Harmony Tan in the first round in straight sets at the All England Club.

Serena Williams celebrates her victory at the National Open on August 8, 2022.
Serena Williams celebrates her victory at the National Open on August 8, 2022.
USA TODAY sports

Previously, she last competed at the 2021 Wimbledon tournament, where she retired in the middle of her first match due to a torn hamstring she sustained after slipping on the grass field.

“I feel good, I had the feeling that I started well today. I think that’s what I had to do, just line up,” she said. “Mentally I’m getting there. I’m not where I usually am (or) where I want to be. Every game I play, whether I win or lose, helps me.

“I haven’t played much in the last year, (actually) two years. I think that helps me physically. I feel a lot better in practice, it’s just about taking that to court. I’m literally the kind of person that it takes one or two things and then it clicks.”

Serena Williams hits a shot in her first win in over a year.
Serena Williams hits a shot in her first win in over a year.
AP

Williams, who turns 41 at the end of September, next faces either Belinda Bencic or Tereza Martincova in 12th place.

Williams has won this tournament three times and reached the final in her last appearance at the hard-court event in 2019, where she lost to Bianca Andreescu when she was forced to retire due to injury.

But Williams has played little since then and knows she needs time on the pitch. Williams started strong and won the first two games with relative ease.

Parrizas-Diaz drew 2-2 but despite Williams struggling at certain points, the 31-year-old Spaniard couldn’t find enough of a constant flow to progress. Williams found her rhythm, mixing a solid touch with her signature power, and executing shot after shot just outside of Parrizas-Diaz’s reach.

Williams’ effort had fans roaring and some even bowing.

Serena Williams hits a shot in her first win in over a year.
Serena Williams hits a shot in her first win in over a year.
AP

Williams won the last three games to win the opener and took the lead in the second set after Parrizas-Diaz went 4-3 in 57th place. She endured a nine-two game to hold serve and even the set, then collapsed in the next game before serving the win.

“I’m just happy about a win. It’s been a long time, I’ve forgotten what that feels like,” Williams said.

In another opening round, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez returned to the court with a 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3 win over Australia’s Storm Sanders.

Fernandez was back in action for the first time since sustaining a stress fracture in her foot in a quarter-final loss to Martina Trevisan on 31 May. The 13th Fernandez will next face Brazilian Beatriz Maia on Wednesday.

Serena Williams reacts at the National Open.
Serena Williams reacts at the National Open.
Getty Images

Also, Sloane Stephens defeated Sofia Kenin in straight sets 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5 in a three-hour match twice interrupted by rain.

— With AP

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