A day after announcing that she was planning to retire from professional tennis at the U.S. Open, 23-time Grand Slam and three-time National Bank Open champion Serena Williams fell in straight sets to No. 12 seed Belinda Bencic. Bencic, who beat Williams en route to winning the Toronto title in 2015, won the match, 6-2, 6-4, to book her place in the third round, where she will face No. 8 seed Garbiñe Muguruza.
In their first meeting since the 2017 Australian Open, where Williams went on to win her last Grand Slam while two months pregnant, Bencic drew first blood in the third game of the first set when Williams double faulted on break point.
“I love playing here, I’ve always loved playing here,” Williams said in her post-match interview.
In the 77-minute encounter, Bencic dictated most of the exchanges in her own service games, absorbing and redirecting the pace that Williams threw at her. The Swiss secured a second break in the seventh game to lead 5-2 and needed five set points before she was able to serve out the opening set, as the American struggled to find her range on her groundstrokes.
With the support of the Canadian crowd, Williams got off to a better start in the second, trading quick holds with Bencic for the first six games. Bencic, however, raised her level in the seventh game just as Williams began to falter under pressure, double faulting once again to fall down a set and a break.
Bencic, who hit a total of eight aces and won 84% (32/38) of her first-serve points, continued to dominate on her own serve, dropping just two points in her next two service games to deny Williams a fairytale ending in Toronto.
“I’m terrible at goodbyes,” Williams said. “Goodbye Toronto, but I’ll be coming back as a visitor.”
In the final match of the Wednesday night session, hometown hero Bianca Andreescu followed up her win over Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday evening with a thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over France’s Alizé Cornet.
The Mississauga native, who recorded her eighth consecutive win when the National Bank Open is held in Toronto, will face China’s Zheng Qinwen in the first match of Thursday’s night session.
Going into this second-round clash, Cornet had gotten the better of Andreescu without dropping a set in their first two meetings, which took place during last year’s grass season at Berlin and Wimbledon.
After beginning the match with five breaks of serve in a row, Andreescu was able to steady the ship, consolidating her early advantage and breaking once more to move within a set of the round of 16.
The former U.S. Open champion jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the second, but Cornet, who is known as one of the trickiest and most consistent players on tour, was not ready to give up without a fight. The Frenchwoman responded by reeling off five of the next six games to force a final set.
Andreescu secured a break in the fourth game of the decider, after Cornet double faulted on break point, to lead 3-1 in the decider. She saved two break points in the following game with some steely play, getting the better of Cornet in the lengthy exchanges to hold for 4-1. The break ultimately proved decisive, as Andreescu went on to serve out the match in two hours and 26 minutes, saving a break point in the process.