Eurosport expert Barbara Schett has hailed Serena Williams as a “trailblazer” for the sport of tennis and added that it was a “privilege” to play against the American, who on Tuesday effectively confirmed that she will retire after the upcoming US Open.
In an interview with Vogue, 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams said she “never liked the word retirement,” she prefers to think about the next step as “a transition” and she will be “evolving away from tennis.”
Schett, who faced Williams during her playing career and now works as a presenter and pundit for Eurosport, said it wasn’t a surprise, and the US Open always felt like the natural ending point to her career.
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“It’s not a big surprise to me,” said Schett in a video filmed for Eurosport. “We know that she has not played for the last year, she only got back to Wimbledon, played there.
“To me the US Open felt like the place where she’d probably play her last match.
“What a career she’s had, 23 Grand Slam titles, I thought she might crack the record of Margaret Court, she didn’t in the end but she goes down as the best to ever play.”
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Schett was quick to praise Williams for the career she had, and spoke of how difficult it was to face the American when she was in full flow.
“It was a privilege for me to play in her era as well. I’ve been on the court playing against her many times. It was almost uncomfortable because the way she played, she played so hard, you always ran out of time against her, she had this presence on the court, her athleticism was just unbelievable and yeah it was always very uncomfortable to play against her and especially that one time that I lost 6-0 6-0 on Centre Court, Philippe Chatrier at the French Open. That’s something I don’t like to get reminded of very often.
“She’s had an amazing career, she’s a trailblazer for our sport I think we can thanks Serena Williams for what she has done for the sport, for her community and for tennis itself, the way it’s developed. Thank you for that Serena. And for this next chapter in her life I’m not worried about her at all, she’s very driven, she’s very motivated, she’s got her own company already. I’m sure she’ll be very successful in whatever she does.
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“And then there’s the family obviously, which she said is the reason why she’s retiring now, they would like to extend their family which I can totally relate to. It’s easier for a man playing on the Tour compared to a woman because at some stage everybody has to say goodbye. It’s been very hard for her and I can’t wait to see her at the US Open and so grateful that she’s been around.”
Schett also recalled a story of the first time she saw Williams play and what she was told by Williams’ older sister Venus before that moment.
“I will never forget the time that I first saw Serena Williams play because we saw Venus Williams play and we thought ‘oh my god she’s the best player ever, the power she had the serve she had.’ But Venus said ‘just wait for my little sister’ so we couldn’t believe it and once we saw Serena we were just in awe. We knew she would be the one winning lots and lots of Grand Slam titles. We didn’t think she’d dominate women’s tennis for that many years then but it was clear that she was going to be something pretty extraordinary in women’s tennis.”
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