When Serena Williams made the first professional tennis appearance of her career in Quebec City on a cold day in late October 1995, at just 14 years old, there was no glitz or circumstance, no introductions and certainly no fans. who were watching.
No one really had any idea who she was or what she would become.
The kid from Compton, California, who had traveled north to the beautiful province to begin her foray into the world of tennis, was playing in a Tier 3 tournament qualifier against 149th-ranked American Annie Miller.
It was timeless, lackluster and the match was over in less than an hour. Miller beat Williams 6-1, 6-1.
That trip to Canada during those formative years marked one of the greatest tennis players of all time. It fueled her drive to be the best.
And when she returned to the pro circuit two years after that opener loss, Williams was ready to take on the world and change the game forever.
“End of a Story”
So it seems normal that after starting this tennis journey in Canada, she announces that her career is coming to an end in Canada.
Williams says she is “stepping away” from tennis, her way of saying her retirement.
In a lengthy point-of-view piece in Vogue Magazine, Williams says she’ll be leaving the game in September.
WATCH | Williams retires from tennis:
“I don’t know how I’m going to be able to watch this magazine when it comes out, knowing that this is the end of a story that started in Compton, California with a little black girl who just wanted to play tennis” , wrote Williams in Vogue.
Canadian tennis fans now have one last chance to serenade and celebrate the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner.
WATCH | Toronto fans pay tribute to Williams:
In the 27 years since that unremarkable loss to Annie Miller, Williams has amassed jaw-dropping results.
And her ability to stay on top for as long as she has, with everything she’s been through, is perhaps what’s most amazing.
In fact, Williams holds the record for the longest time between securing the number one position, which happened on July 8, 2002, and doing it again 14 years later in May 2017.
She held the No. 1 spot for 319 weeks. Williams has won 855 times against 153 losses.
Not only does she hold all 23 Slam singles titles, she still has 14 Slam doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles to her name, including six US Open championships, seven Australian Open titles , four Olympic gold medals and Wimbledon doubles titles.
And as she nears 41, which will happen next month, she is still playing with the same vigor and passion she has brought to the court in every game for nearly three decades.
On Sunday in Toronto, Williams won her first singles match in over a year. Wednesday night, at the National Bank Open, she will return to the field to face Belinda Bencic or Tereza Martincova.
WATCH | Williams advances to Round 2 in Toronto:
A sold-out crowd is expected to attend the game, with celebrations in Williams’ honor planned.
Williams has been crowned champion on Canadian soil three times – winning it all in 2001 and ten years later in 2011. Her last victory in Canada was in 2013.
Last big race in Toronto
And while those championship titles are impressive and memorable, what many will remember most was Williams’ last big run in Toronto.
On a brilliantly sunny August afternoon three years ago in 2019, Williams took to the court against Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu in the title match.
The anticipation in the stadium that day was palpable.
There was the then 37-year-old tennis juggernaut taking on the teenage sensation from his hometown – Williams turned professional five years before Andreescu was born.
It was the stuff of movies and tournament organizers couldn’t have imagined a better finish.
It was then that a moment that Canadian tennis fans will never forget took place.
There was this beautiful scene that unfolded in the chaos of the abrupt ending. Andreescu, so young in her career, immediately ran over to Williams to make sure she was okay.
The two exchange a hug and words of support. Andreescu’s genuine care showed his respect for the tennis legend in the clearest way.
WATCH | Andreescu consoles Williams after abrupt end to 2019 final:
Williams then had the opportunity to address the packed crowd via the speakers inside the stadium.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t make it today,” Williams said tearfully. “I tried, but I just couldn’t do it.”
“Bianca, you are a great sportswoman, woman. And thank you to my team. It’s been a difficult year, but we will continue.”
The two would meet again in a league match a month later in the US Open final. Andreescu defeated Williams to become the first Canadian to win a Slam singles title.
WATCH | How Andreescu faced Williams ahead of the US Open final:
It was the last time Williams played in a Grand Slam championship match. She wanted so badly to win this 24th Slam singles victory. It’s not for lack of trying that she didn’t succeed.
And so that’s it. These will be the last matches ever played by Williams.
But this time, when she appears in court in Canada for the last time, it will be very different from that first appearance.
There will be an introduction. Pump and circumstance. And thousands of fans cheering and clapping incessantly for an athlete who endured, lifted time and time again – and who carved her way into the history books as one of the greatest to ever play tennis. .
Serena Williams’ retirement announcement marks a turning point in Canada | Radio-Canada Sports