Serena Williams Bids Tearful Farewell After Canadian Open Defeat: 'I'm Terrible at Goodbyes'

Switzerland's Belinda Bencic defeated Serena Williams in straight sets Wednesday in Toronto

Serena Williams left the Canadian Open for the final time as a competitor on Wednesday night, wiping back tears after defeat.

The tennis champ, 40, took the court in Toronto for her first match since she announced that she will start to transition away from professional tennis once she competes in the upcoming U.S. Open.

Her farewell efforts north of the border stopped at the Canadian Open's second round, though; Williams lost Wednesday's match against world No. 12 and 2020 Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.

Williams received a standing ovation from the crowd at Center Court at Sobeys Stadium, both when she took the court and after the match ended, according to video posted by the Tennis Channel. She complimented Bencic's play Wednesday in a post-match interview and told the Tennis Channel that it has been "a pretty interesting 24 hours," alluding to a Vogue interview in which she spoke out about her retirement plans.

"It's just been so memorable," Williams told the outlet. "Like I said in my article, I'm terrible at goodbyes, but… goodbye, Toronto!"

Serena Williams reacts after her National Bank Open tennis tournament second round match on August 10, 2022, at Sobeys Stadium in Toronto, ON, Canada.
Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty

"I've always had some amazing times here both on and off the court, I'll be coming back just as a visitor to this city," Williams said, of leaving the Toronto-based tournament as a competitor for the final time. "Otherwise, It's been remarkable, I've had some really amazing matches here, some really cool wins, a crazy match against [Bencic] a few years ago, that was pretty intense."

Williams offered the crowd at Center Court a thank-you "from the bottom of my heart" before she exited the court. "It's been a joy playing in front of you guys all these years," she said via the Tennis Channel. "Thank you."

Serena Williams reacts during a post-match ceremony after losing to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland on Day 5 of the National Bank Open, part of the Hologic WTA Tour, at Sobeys Stadium on August 10, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario.
Robert Prange/Getty

Prior to Wednesday's loss, Williams just earned her first singles win in more than a year on Monday when she defeated Spain's Nuria Párrizas Díaz in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.

Since Williams was eliminated by Bencic in Toronto, the 23-time Grand Slam winner will next play at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati before she travels to New York City for one last US Open.

Serena Williams of the United States waves to the crowd as she leaves the court after losing to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland during the National Bank Open, part of the Hologic WTA Tour, at Sobeys Stadium on August 10, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Vaughn Ridley/Getty

In Williams' Vogue announcement on Tuesday regarding her "evolution" away from tennis, she wrote that she has "never liked the word retirement," explaining that "it doesn't feel like a modern word to me."

"I've been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people," Williams wrote Tuesday. "Maybe the best word to describe what I'm up to is evolution."

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The athlete said that she has been "reluctant to admit" to herself or the people around her that "I have to move on from playing tennis." But the mom to 4-year-old Olympia and founder of investment firm Serena Ventures said that she wants to refocus her attention elsewhere, and she and husband Alexis Ohanian want to have another child.

Unlike many of the people she's played against, Williams said, she's not excited at the prospect of retiring.

"There is no happiness in this topic for me," she wrote in Vogue. "I know it's not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain. It's the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep saying to 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."

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