Serena Williams has played her final match at the Canadian Open, going down to Belinda Bencic in straight sets in Toronto on Wednesday.
Just 24 hours after announcing she will retire from tennis after the US Open - starting on August 29 - Williams was no match for Bencic in their second-round clash.
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The World No.12 was a class above the 40-year-old Williams as she won 6-2 6-4 to send the 23-time grand slam champion packing.
Bencic was on fire as Williams struggled in the first set, with one extraordinary winner from the Swiss player leaving Williams in disbelief.
Williams simply bowed her head in exasperation after Bencic hit a winner while almost sitting down.
In emotional scenes, Williams was given a rousing reception from the crowd as she farewelled the event for the final time.
"It was a lot of emotion because obviously I love playing here," she said in an on-court interview.
"I wish I could have played better today but Belinda played so well.
“It's been a pretty interesting 24 hours. I'm terrible at goodbyes, but goodbye, Toronto!”
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) August 11, 2022
The American champion then broke down in tears in a post-match ceremony celebrating her career.
Fans were left heartbroken that Williams couldn't go further in Toronto.
She will now turn her attention to the Cincinnati Masters next week before her farewell at the US Open.
What an emotional moment. What an amazing champion #SerenaWilliams is and an extraordinary role model for so many people. She certainly will be missed on court and I can’t imagine how intense her farewells will be at the USOpen. Go Serena! pic.twitter.com/RG0HWw1r3f
— Julio Cesar Rodriguez (@jcrmtxus) August 11, 2022
— Jared Barnes (@MrJaredBarnes) August 11, 2022
I know we are here to celebrate but each match Serena plays makes me so sad man….. it feels surreal to watch her retire. Like i still feel like a kid watching her
— That’s that Thique (@layla_job) August 10, 2022
I'm sad I'm not watching 2021 Australian open Serena body right now.
— Travis (@traviijay14) August 11, 2022
Watching Serena go out like this is brutal
— Kevin Coyle (@The_Real_Coyle) August 10, 2022
— nupqu ʔa·kǂam̓ (@Skink00ts) August 11, 2022
Omg serena 😭❤️ this is so sad I love you queen
— Terry T | MUGURUZA DAY (@tezzagotbagged) August 11, 2022
Serena Williams reveals plans to retire from tennis
On Tuesday she announced that she will hang up the racquet after playing at the US Open in front of her home fans, bringing down the curtain on her illustrious career.
"I have never liked the word retirement," she wrote in an article for Vogue magazine.
"Maybe the best word to describe what I'm up to is evolution. I'm here to tell you that I'm evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.
"A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family."
Williams hasn't won a grand slam since 2017 and has been chasing an elusive 24th crown that would draw her level with Margaret Court for the all-time record.
She has come tantalisingly close to achieving that feat on four occasions, featuring in four major finals since giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017.
"There are people who say I'm not the GOAT (greatest of all time) because I didn't pass Court's record, which she achieved before the 'Open era' that began in 1968," the former World No.1 said.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I'm really not thinking about her. If I'm in a Slam final, then yes, I'm thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn't help."
She later wrote in an Instagram post that it was time to move in a "different direction."
"That time is always hard when you love something so much," she added. "My goodness do I enjoy tennis.
"But now, the countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena. I'm gonna relish these next few weeks."
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