The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

407 ETR Morning Commute: Toronto serenades Serena; 3rd round Thursday features 4 former champs

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August 11, 2022
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Serena Williams wipes away a tear during a post-match ceremony in Toronto.

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

Wednesday night was for Williams – Serena Williams, that is.

Twenty-two years after the tennis superstar made her National Bank Open presented by Rogers debut, the now-40-year-old American announced Tuesday that she would be retiring from tennis after the US Open and got a champion’s farewell in her match against Belinda Bencic.

While Serena saying so long to tennis was the biggest headline of the day, there was plenty else on – including matches for world No.1 Iga Świątek and Canada’s Bianca Andreescu.

Here’s today’s 407 ETR Morning Commute – including a preview of Thursday’s third round action.

Serena: ‘Thank you for the support’ – and Toronto thanks her back

“It’s just been so memorable,” Serena said in her post-match interview of her time playing in Canada. “Like I said in my article, I’m not good at good-byes… but good-bye, Toronto.”

While the 23-time Grand Slam champion admitted to not being good at farewells, the entire evening was one of enthusiastic energy for her, a “home game” in front of the Canadian crowd as she took on Bencic, walking out to an emphatic roar from the sellout Centre Court of nearly 10,000 fans.

“I’ve had some amazing matches here – and some great wins,” Serena told Carly Agro of Sportsnet. “I was really happy to be out here today and play in front of you guys. Thanks for the support.”

Williams grew emotional towards the end of the interview, offering one more heartfelt message: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s been a joy playing in front of you guys all these years. So – thank you.”

Bencic too solid for legendary Serena

The level of tennis was just too strong from Bencic, the Swiss star who won Olympic gold last summer in Tokyo. She and Serena had done battle in the semi-finals of Toronto in 2015, a dramatic three-setter that a then-18-year-old Bencic won en route to her first big title.

After Williams held in the opening game, Bencic tallied six of the next seven to take the opening set, then weathered stronger serving from Serena in set two to capture the match 6-2 6-4 in one hour, 17 minutes.

“Tonight was really special,” Bencic following the second-round battle. “It’s always an honor to be on the court with Serena. Tonight is about her, especially here in Toronto.”

Third-round Thursday: Swiatek leads the way

From Wednesday night to a jam-packed Thursday we go, with five top eight seeds remaining, including world No.1 Iga Świątek. The Polish star takes on Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in their first meeting. That match will be second up on Centre Court.

In the second match of the evening session, all eyes will be on Bencic’s next opponent, another Slam champion in No. 8 seed Garbiñe Muguruza.

They will take to the court after home hope Bianca Andreescu, who is set for a 7pm battle after winning a dramatic three-setter over Alize Corner late Wednesday night. She set up a first meeting with up-and-coming Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen who was up a set on No. 5 seed Ons Jabeur in the second round Wednesday before the Tunisian had to retire.

Other Thursday match-ups to watch:

  • No. 3 seed Maria Sakkari vs. former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova
  • Two-time champion here Simona Halep vs. Jil Teichmann of Switzerland
  • And No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka meeting Coco Gauff, the American teen, who upset Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in a grueling three-setter, 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(3)

In all, eight quarter-final spots are at stake, with Camila Giorgi (2021), Andreescu (2019), Halep (2016 and 2018) and Bencic (2015) the remaining former champions in the draw.

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