mma Raducanu said it was a “true honour” to share a court with Serena Williams, but showed the great retiree no mercy in a stunning straight-sets victory at the Western Open and from South.
The British No.1 showed timely signs of her best form to triumph 6-4 6-0 in just over an hour in front of a packed Cincinnati crowd.
Williams announced her impending retirement last week, saying she was “getting away from tennis” and suggesting this month’s US Open would be the last tournament of her illustrious career.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion had already won four of those titles before Raducanu was even born in November 2002 and the pair had never met before, with Williams having spent most of the 14 months since Raducanu’s breakthrough in Wimbledon last summer on the sidelines.
“I can’t believe I just played Serena Williams,” Raducanu said. “It’s something that I think I’m really lucky to have been able to do, and that our careers have crossed paths when there’s such a big [age] gap and watching her grow, it was an amazing experience just to play her.
“You have to cherish the moment and you’re going to treasure that memory for the rest of your career.
“Everything she has accomplished is so inspiring and it was a real honor to share the court with her.”
Whatever the outcome, it was always going to be hard not to read too much into this showpiece encounter.
The first option was that Williams would sink the US Open champion to raise hopes for a dream start at that tournament later this month, where the 41-year-old will have one last chance to equal the Margaret Court’s record of 24 Slam titles.
The alternative, that Raducanu would knock out arguably the greatest tennis player of all time and signal a timely return to form ahead of her return to Flushing Meadows and defense of her crown.
I’m obviously very proud of myself and that gives me confidence.
The 19-year-old hasn’t won a tournament since her New York fairy tale, but is looking to build momentum with less than a fortnight until the start of the final Major of the year.
There were caveats: It was only Williams’ fourth game of the season and it had already been pushed back 24 hours, officially for scheduling reasons, but with rumors swirling about a knee injury for Williams. ‘American. But it was still a major boost for Raducanu, who only made one unforced error and at times played close to the level that saw her qualify for that unexpected success at the US Open there. at 12 months.
“Playing Serena and managing to win, I’m obviously very proud of myself, and that gives me confidence,” she added.
“Each of those wins builds confidence, no matter what level you’re playing, every win counts. But of course this one more, because you’re playing, like, the biggest. But I’m not trying to elevate too much high or too low right now.
Raducanu broke Williams’ serve for love in the opener and, while back-to-back aces saw the home favorite battle in the first set at 4-3, the Briton kept her cool before to flee a resigned adversary in the second. .
Last week at the Canadian Open, Williams picked up her first victory of the season, against Nuria Parrizas-Diaz, before falling to Olympic champion Belinda Bencic after announcing her retirement plans in Vogue.
The second leg of what is a short farewell tour has already concluded and it remains to be seen whether Williams will play one of the two remaining tune-up events, in Cleveland and Quebec, or head straight to the ‘US Open. .
Cincinnati organizers had planned a post-match tribute, but Williams made a quick exit after planting a forehand into the net to confirm Raducanu’s victory, declining an on-court interview.
Next up for Raducanu, meanwhile, will be a second-round clash against two-time Major winner Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday night, but fellow former US Open champion Naomi Osaka is out after suffering a two-legged loss. sets against China’s Zhang Shuai.
There was darker news for the home crowd as teenager Coco Gauff was finally forced to retire injured as she led 7-5 1-0 after rolling her ankle in the Champions League match. opening of her first-round match against qualifier Marie Bouzkova.