Belinda Bencic became the latest player to lavish praise on Serena Williams in light of her impending retirement, marveling at everything she has done for the sport over the years and what it means for the American legend.
Speaking at her press conference after her 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win over Andrea Petkovic in the first round of the 2022 US Open, the Swiss recalled her experience of beating the 23-time Grand Slam champion at the 2015 Canadian Open as a teenager.
Noting that she was "proud" to have achieved the feat, the Olympic gold medalist could not help but become lost in the enormity of the situation that is Williams' retirement.
"I'm very proud to say that I managed to beat her. But still, I mean, I think now that it's kind of ending, I feel like more and more I realize, like, how big this moment is and how much she's done, how big she is," Belinda Bencic said.
Calling the Canadian Open victory one of the "biggest wins" of her career, the 25-year-old revealed that the emotions from that experience were still freshly etched in her mind.
"I mean, the emotion were huge. Of course, I mean, I was 18 years old. I got to play Serena Williams already a couple of times before. First time I won the set, I was really pumped up to at least have won a set," Belinda Bencic said. "I eventually won the match. It was big emotions. I still have it really clearly in my mind. I think for sure it's still one of the biggest wins I ever had."
While the World No. 13 admitted the experience on Monday, where the 40-year-old won her opener at the US Open to postpone her retirement by at least one match, was electric, Bencic expects it to be even bigger on Wednesday.
In the second round, Williams will lock horns with second seed Anett Kontaveit, the highest-ranked opponent the American has faced this year so far.
"I think, yeah, the atmosphere yesterday was unbelievable," Belinda Bencic said. "I only watched in TV. I wish I would be there. But was for sure a moment. Maybe will be even bigger on Wednesday."
"I feel like she will be for sure missed on the tour because I think she was a big character" - Belinda Bencic on Andrea Petkovic
Belinda Bencic also had high praise for her opponent on the night, Andrea Petkovic, who, like Serena Williams, bid farewell to tennis at the US Open.
Referring to the German as one of the "nicest," "fairest" and "funniest" players on the WTA tour at the moment, the World No. 13 noted with sadness that the women's tour was losing a big character in Petkovic.
"Yeah, definitely, she's really a nice person. Since I'm on the tour, when I was really young coming up, she was one of the players that was very nice to me when I was, like, unknown still. I really appreciate that," Belinda Bencic said. "She's also one of the fairest players. Yeah, as you said, the funniest. She has the coolest jokes, very nice humor. I feel like she will be for sure missed on the tour because I think she was a big character."
Recalling their post-match hug at the net, Bencic revealed that Petkovic was already in tears by the time she reached her, adding that she tried to make their hug as nice as possible as a fitting tribute to the former World No. 9.
"I could already see when she was walking up to me, she had tears in her eyes, she was crying," Belinda Bencic said. "You also realize what a big moment is for her. Yeah, the hug felt very good because, of course, I wanted to make it as nice as possible for Andrea. I think the fans did, for sure."