MASON, Ohio– Serena Williams lost in the opening round match of the penultimate tournament of her career on Tuesday but was dismissed as a hero after losing 6-4, 6-0 to to Emma Raducanu at the Western & Southern Open.
Shortly after the loss, the 2021 US Open winner received a standing ovation from the crowd and received praise from her opponent on the pitch after the game.
“We should all honor Serena and her amazing career,” Raducanu said. “I’m so grateful for the experience of being able to play her and for crossing our careers. Everything she has achieved is so inspiring. It was a true honor to share the space with her.”
For her part, Williams appeared to dismiss the on-pitch interviewer as she quickly packed her bags and left the pitch immediately after the game, waving to the crowd and smiling as she left. A microphone that had been placed on the opposite side of the net from Raducanu’s interview was then removed by the court.
It’s been an emotional week for Williams. The 40-year-old announced in a first-person view for Vogue published Tuesday that she will soon be retiring from tennis and shared her desire to have another child.
Williams, who at 23 has the most major titles of any player in the Open Era, has admitted to having mixed feelings about retirement – even opting to use the word ‘evolution’ for her next chapter instead.
“For me there is no happiness in this subject,” Williams wrote. “I know it’s not customary to say this, but I feel a lot of pain. It’s the hardest thing I can ever imagine. I hate it.
“I hate being at this crossroads. I keep telling myself I wish it could be easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”
Since her revelation, Williams received much fanfare on her second-round loss at the Canadian Open, which featured an on-court ceremony after the game, and ticket sales at the Western & Southern Open and US Open skyrocketed. Williams’ afternoon practice on Tuesday drew hundreds of fans who crammed to catch a glimpse of the star.
On Tuesday, the 11,435-seat Center Court was nearly full, and chants and visual signs in support of Williams could be heard to the last point. Alongside her family, including four-year-old daughter Olympia, in the crowd, four-time major champion Naomi Osaka, who lost earlier in the day, was also present. Williams struggled early in their first career meeting with Raducanu, 19, and trailed 4-1 before fighting back and winning three of their next four games.
But the second set was all for Raducanu, who will next face the two-time Major champion Viktoria Azarenkaand she finished the match in 65 minutes.
Williams is expected to compete in her final tournament at the US Open, which begins August 29 in New York. She is a six-time champion of the event, reaching the 2018 and 2019 semi-finals in her last appearance of 2020.