Even in the face of all-time greatness and unprecedented longevity that has spanned 27 remarkable years, time is undefeated and will eventually catch up for us all. With each passing day, the end of Serena Williams’ professional tennis career draws alarmingly closer, and the chances of a spectacular final result fade away.
In what is likely to be the penultimate tournament of her great career, Williams bowed out of the Open and Southern Open in her first-round match with a dismal performance, losing 6-4, 6- 0 against an impeccable Emma Raducanu who did not make a move. bad foot at all times.
“It feels really incredible, to be honest. I can’t believe I played Serena Williams,” Raducanu said afterwards.
After an unwanted one-day delay, Williams and Raducanu finally arrived on Tuesday evening with a crowd packed into the venue and watching from the stadium court to catch a glimpse of the American great before her match. When Williams arrived at the stadium, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
This was a battle of distant generations with 21 years separating Williams, 40, from Raducanu, 19. But after a career marked by countless comebacks, Williams’ year-long absence from the tour after the Last year’s Wimbledon has so far been too long for him to regain his best form.
Williams opened the match with a horrible opening service game, made four straight errors and lost the first five points of the match when she immediately went down on a break. It set the tone for an ominous performance until the end as he once again struggled desperately to establish any momentum on his groundstrokes and his significantly diminished movement meant he was a sitting duck whenever Raducanu took control .
After a year of constant attention following his US Open victory, for Raducanu this was a rare opportunity as, for once, all cameras and eyes were on his rival through the network.
Without expectations or inhibitions, Raducanu played a flawless match. She soaked up Williams’ early shots, patiently tested her opponent’s shot tolerance in extended rallies and whenever the ball dropped short, pounced without hesitation, exposing Williams’ greatly diminished movement. He finished the match with just one unforced error along with 14 winners.
“[This] it might be one of the last chances I get to play with her,” he said. “You have to cherish the moment and you’ll have that memory for the rest of your career. I was really trying to make the most of every point there was and give myself the best memories of when I played with Serena once.”
Despite his joy, Raducanu reacted to his victory with an extremely low-key celebration, barely closing his fist as Williams’ right flew long. “To be honest, I was in awe. I think I said a ‘go to the match,’ and I was just saying to myself, because I respect her so much as an athlete, as a tennis player, as a person,” he said.
In Toronto last week, a day after Williams announced she had begun the countdown to the end of her career, she was defeated in straight sets by Belinda Bencic. After the loss, he stayed for a rare courtside interview with a loser and barely held back tears as he said goodbye to Canada.
This time, although organizers lined the courtside with champagne, there was no ceremony or fanfare. Williams packed her bags and left in a flash, her frustration clear for all to see. He then did not attend the post-match press conference.
There’s only one tournament left in Williams’ career, and it’s far from how she envisioned the end. He will now head to the US Open, and the craziness that awaits him there in his final event, having won just one match in his three singles tournaments.
“I think we all need to honor Serena and her incredible career,” Raducanu said. “I am so grateful for this experience of playing her and for our careers to have crossed. Everything she accomplished is inspiring and it was a true honor to share the court with her.”
For Raducanu, an unlikely chance to face a player who was a hall of famer before she even existed ended up being a pipe dream. He’ll always be able to say he watched Serena Williams on court and walked away with a win.
For her efforts, Raducanu will face another of the most successful players of the last decade in the second round as former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka awaits. With Raducanu also set to play doubles alongside Elena Rybakina on Wednesday, she will face a brutal change as the pair meet in the second match on Center Court despite Raducanu’s later finish.
“Obviously with the last year I’ve had, getting a lot of exposure to these great players, and every time you play them, you also learn from them and what they do really well that’s helped them in their careers.” she said “Yeah, it’s going to be a tough game tomorrow, for sure.”
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