Serena Williams congratulates Emma Raducanu of Great Britain after their match during the Western & Southern Open at Lindner Family Tennis Center on August 16, 2022 in Mason, Ohio. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
An energized Emma Raducanu called her Cincinnati showdown vs. Serena Williams “a great gift.”
The US Open champion was in no mood for benevolence between the lines.
Playing with buzz-kill brilliance, Raducanu gave Williams the runaround sweeping seven straight games to show the former world No. 1 the door 6-4, 6-0 and charge into the Western & Southern Open second round.
The 19-year-old Raducanu will face another Grand Slam champion, Victoria Azarenka, in round two.
“Definitely, the atmosphere tonight was amazing,” Raducanu told the crowd afterward. “To play with Serena for sure even when you guys were cheering for her I was like all for it.
“To be honest I was nerovus from the first point to the last point because I know what a champion she is. She can come back from any situation so I really had to stay focused. I’m just so pleased I managed to keep my composure.”
Fans, including Coco Gauff, Grigor Dimitrov and Naomi Osaka, packed center court eager to celebrate Serena’s farewell appearance in Cincinnati.
ꜱᴏʟɪᴅ performance 👊
In her @CincyTennis debut @EmmaRaducanu moves past Serena Williams, 6-4, 6-0! pic.twitter.com/SZ9OjhbyWT
— wta (@WTA) August 17, 2022
The 40-year-old superstar announced she will close the curtain on her glorious career after this month’s US Open.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion, who played with kinesiology tape snaking up the back of her leg, gave Raducanu a warm handshake afterward but did not stick around too long. Williams, who grew teary thanking fans in Toronto after her emotional loss to Belinda Bencic last week, put her Wilson racquet back on her shoulder and waved good-bye to fans tonight looking a little disappointed.
The Cincinnati crowd shared the love showering Serena with a standing ovation as she walked off court.
What a send off 👏👏👏@serenawilliams | #CincyTennis pic.twitter.com/jxHYIk5J06
— wta (@WTA) August 17, 2022
While fans came to court pumped to party, Raducanu muted the celebration.
Playing clean combinations, Raducanu beat Williams to the ball and worked her over in the corners of the court. Since she made history as the first qualifer—male or female—to win a Grand Slam title in New York last summer, Raducanu had struggled to a 13-17 record.
Playing her most dynamic tennis since her masterful Flushing Meadows run, Raducanu was inspired tonight. Raducanu reeled off eight of the first nine points breaking at love to open.
An erratic Williams sprayed a couple of shots dropping serve again to fall into a 1-4 hole after 17 minutes.
Through the first six games, the former No. 1 was piling up errors. Williams committed 10 errors to 1 for Raducanu through the first five games.
Serving at 4-1, the British No. 1 was one point from a 5-1 lead when Williams amped up her aggression. Slamming winners, the 40-year-old Williams broke in the sixth game much to the delight of daughter Olympia seated next to Grigor Dimitrov in the crowd.
Vintage Serena showed up in the seventh game. Williams slashed successive aces holding for 3-4. Williams saved a set point holding for 4-5.
Serving for the set, Raducanu rapped an ace and forehand down the line for 30-love. The slider serve down wide on the deuce side and down the T on the ad side were weapons for Raducanu. She drilled an ace down the middle wrapping the 39-minute opener at love.
Though she cleaned up her ground game later in the set, Williams committed 12 errors to 1 for Raducanu in the set.
The teenager owns a fast first step, was moving smoothly and hitting her running forehand with more precision than the former champion. Raducanu scored her third break of the night to start the second set when Williams missed the mark on a backhand down the line.
Raducanu was firing her forehand with accuracy—and the US Open champion was frequently stepping into the court taking the ball earlier. Raducanu spread the court, stepped in and crunched a forehand winner down the line breaking again for 3-0 and muting the pro-Serena crowd.
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When Williams slapped one final second serve return into net, Raducanu was through in one hour then joined fans in giving Williams a hearty send-off.
“We all need to just honor Serena and her amazing career,” Raducanu said. “I’m so grateful for the experience to be able to play her and for our careers to have crossed over.
“Everything she has achieved is so inspirational it was a true honor to share the court with her.”