Emma Raducanu edged out Serena Williams in a highly anticipated first-round match on Tuesday at the Western & Southern Open. Raducanu dominated from the start, breaking Williams in the first game before eking out a 6-4, 6-0 victory.
The 40-year-old Williams, who announced that she will be stepping away from tennis after the US Open, was competing in just her fourth match of the season. The 23-time Grand Slam champion won her first match in over a year last week at the National Bank Open, defeating Nuria Parrizas Diaz in straight sets before losing to Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.
On Tuesday, Williams struggled to find her rhythm. Raducanu, 19, played clean tennis throughout the match. Raducanu made just one unforced error to finish with eight winners in the opening set, while Williams faltered on 12 unforced errors to finish with 11 winners.
Raducanu broke Williams twice in the first set to build a quick 4-1 lead before Williams generated her first and only break point of the match. Williams converted to close the gap, but Raducanu coolly served in the first set after 39 minutes.
“I think from the beginning to the end, maybe I looked calm, but I knew how important each point was, because you relax a little bit and she will be on top of you,” Raducanu told reporters. ‘She’s just a legend’ With a set in hand, the Briton raced through the second set to earn her 12th win of the season, making zero unforced errors to close out the match.
She will face former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the second round. “I think we should all honor Serena and her incredible career,” Raducanu told the crowd after the match. I am very grateful for the experience of being able to play her and for the intersection of our careers.
Everything she has achieved is very inspiring and it was a true honor to share the court with her.”
Raducanu defeated Williams
Taking to social media, Brett Haber said he finds “certain courage” in Serena Williams’ willingness to confront her imperfections.
“There is NO indignity in @serenawilliams losing as she approaches the finish line. On the contrary, I find a certain courage in her willingness to confront her imperfection, as she gives fans one last chance to bear firsthand witness to her legend,” Haber wrote.
Williams was sidelined for a year by a torn hamstring suffered last year at Wimbledon, and her late-career injuries have contributed to inconsistency on the court. She started the 2022 season at Wimbledon and this was just her fourth match of the season.