Serena Williams’ streak in Cincinnati was cut short as Emma Radukanu recorded a straight-sets Round 1 win

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Serena Williams’ streak in Cincinnati was cut short as Emma Radukanu recorded a straight-sets Round 1 win
Serena Williams’ streak in Cincinnati was cut short as Emma Radukanu recorded a straight-sets Round 1 win

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MASON, Ohio — Serena Williams lost her first-round match at the penultimate tournament of her career on Tuesday, but she was still sent off as a hero after a 6-4, 6-0 loss to Emma Radukanu at the Western & Southern Open.

Moments after the loss, the 2021 US Open champion received a standing ovation from the crowd and was praised by her opponent on the court after the match.

“We should all honor Serena and her incredible career,” Raducanu said. “I’m so grateful for the experience of being able to play her and for our careers to have crossed. Everything she has accomplished is so inspiring. It was a real honor to share the court with her.”

Williams, for her part, appeared to refuse the on-court interviewer as she quickly packed her bags and left the court immediately after the match, waving and smiling at the crowd as she went. A microphone that had been placed on the opposite side of the net from Radukanu’s interview was then removed from the court.

It’s been an emotional week for Williams. The 40-year-old announced her imminent retirement from tennis in a first-person essay for Vogue published last Tuesday, sharing her desire to have another child.

Williams, who has the most major titles of any player in the Open Era with 23, admitted she has mixed feelings about retirement – even choosing to use the word “evolution” for her next chapter instead.

“For me, there is no happiness in this subject,” Williams wrote. “I know it’s not common to say, but I’m in a lot of pain. This is the hardest thing I can imagine. I hate it.

“I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep telling myself that I wish it was easy, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to end, but at the same time, it’s time to be ready for the next one.”

After her revelation, Williams received much fanfare in her second-round loss at the Canadian Open, in which there was an on-court ceremony after the match, and ticket sales skyrocketed at the Western & Southern Open and the US Open. Williams’ afternoon practice on Tuesday drew hundreds of fans crowding to catch a glimpse of the star.

On Tuesday, the 11,435-seat Center Court was near capacity, and chants and visible signs of Williams’ support could be heard until the last point. In addition to her family, including four-year-old daughter Olympia, four-time major champion Naomi Osaka, who lost earlier in the day, was in the crowd. Williams struggled early in her first career meeting with Radukanu, 19, and trailed 4-1 before fighting back to win three of the next four games.

But the second set was all about Radukanu, who next faces two-time major champion Victoria Azarenka, and she closed out the match after 65 minutes.

Williams is expected to play in her final tournament at the US Open, which begins in New York on August 29. She is a six-time champion of the event and reached the semifinals in her last appearance in 2020. She reached the final in 2018 and 2019.

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