MASON, Ohio — The Serena Williams farewell tour continues to seem to be a high quality concept that has come too late in the sport.
Since Williams’s announcement in Vogue last week that she would soon retire from the game that she once ruled, she has played two matches and lost each in straight sets.
Her last hurrahs have to date been sotto voce: grand occasions without matching content. And as Emma Raducanu, last 12 months’s surprise U.S. Open champion, made frightfully quick work of Williams with a victory, 6-4, 6-0, on Tuesday night, the sold-out center court on the Western and Southern Open was often as quiet as a practice court because the nearly 12,000 fans available rarely had the prospect to cheer the icon that they had come to honor.
For many who remember Williams at her peak, it was painful to observe this first-round defeat as she piled up unforced errors and missed returns early after which, after a temporary surge, faded badly down the stretch with more of the identical.
Irresistible on serve in her prime, she lost her opening service game at love and likewise lost her last three service games, unable to regulate her shots or her destiny, particularly when the short and agile Raducanu got her on the run, exposing Williams’s now-limited movement.
Williams’s second serve has been an issue lately, and it was a fair greater problem on Tuesday. She won just two of 16 points on her second delivery: a paltry 12.5 percent. And though Williams had long feasted on second serves like Raducanu’s, the 19-year-old British star won 75 percent of the points on her second function Williams struggled to search out her timing and sometimes her footing.
It was a measure of Williams’s disarray and disappointment that, after this 65-minute rout was complete, she politely shook hands with Raducanu and quickly exited the court with a wave to the group, declining an on-court interview with Kondo Simfukwe that may have allowed her to deal with the general public directly in her final match on the tournament.
Last week in Toronto, when Williams lost to Belinda Bencic within the second round of the National Bank Open, there was considerably more fanfare: Williams said a proper farewell to Canada, shed a couple of tears and accepted an armful of parting gifts, including Maple Leafs and Raptors jerseys along with her name and the No. 22 on them.
But there could be no Bengals gear on Tuesday outside Cincinnati, regardless that the Western and Southern Open tournament staff were prepared to mark the moment with way more pomp and circumstance if Williams had been open to the thought.
As a substitute, it was left to Raducanu, who had just faced Williams for the primary and sure only time, to talk to the moment and perform one among the pirouettes that Williams long deployed in victory.
“Well, I feel all of us need to only honor Serena and her amazing profession,” Raducanu said. “I’m so grateful for the experience to have the ability to play her and for our careers to cross over. All the pieces she has achieved is so inspirational, and yeah, it was a real honor to share this court along with her.”
Raducanu was not yet born when Williams won her first Grand Slam singles title at age 17 on the 1999 U.S. Open but like so lots of her generation, Raducanu grew up with Williams dominating the landscape.
“If you guys were cheering for her, I used to be like — you recognize what? — all for it,” Raducanu said to the group.
Raducanu’s breakthrough victory in Latest York last 12 months was way more of a shock than Williams’s 1999 triumph. Raducanu was an unseeded qualifier and is the one qualifier to win a Grand Slam singles title. She has struggled to follow up on that bravura performance, failing to succeed in a final in another tour event. But her poise, precision, flowing footwork and superbly sliced serves on Tuesday were a flashback to last September at Flushing Meadows, even when she felt way more shaky than she looked.
“To be honest, I used to be nervous from the primary point to the last point,” Raducanu said. “I do know what a champion she is. She will come back from any situation. I just had to remain focused. I’m just so pleased I managed to maintain my composure.”
Williams’s struggles within the twilight are actually comprehensible. She is going to turn 41 next month and has been an expert since age 14. The years, even with a limited schedule and phenomenal talent, take their toll. Williams, who missed a 12 months of motion after a hamstring tear at Wimbledon in 2021, has played only 4 singles matches within the last 14 months, and he or she took to the court to face Raducanu with an extended strip of tape running down the skin of her left thigh, more likely to provide support for her left knee.
This much-anticipated match between the best women’s player of this era and one among the sport’s brightest young talents was originally scheduled for Monday night but was delayed a day at Williams’s request to be able to give her, in response to people informed of the situation but not authorized to talk about it, more time to recuperate from knee pain.
It was a newsy day in women’s tennis on Tuesday: Naomi Osaka, once the world No. 1, continued to struggle in 2022, losing in the primary round by 6-4, 7-5 to Zhang Shuai of China. Coco Gauff, the 18-year-old American who reached the French Open final earlier this 12 months, rolled an ankle late in the primary set of her opening-round match with Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic and retired trailing, 5-7, 0-1.
However the principal event was clearly Williams vs. Raducanu, and Williams took the court after warming up in front of a big and supportive crowd earlier within the day on Court 16, with fans peering down from nearby show courts for a probability to catch a glimpse of Williams in person, perhaps for the last time. A few of them already had watched Williams’s older sister Venus lose, 7-5, 6-1, on center court to No. 14 seed Karolina Pliskova of their first-round match.
It was one other poignant day for the Williams sisters and one other short stay at a tournament where they used to settle in for longer. On Wednesday, the Tenth-seeded Raducanu, not the unseeded Serena Williams, will face the previous world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka within the second round.
Serena Williams will presumably return to the practice court and physical therapy to attempt to get sharper and healthier before playing in Latest York, even when it now seems an extended shot that she is going to have the ability to search out enough form to make a run on the U.S. Open, which begins on Aug. 29 and is more likely to be the last of her hurrahs.