Emotional Swiatek and Bencic pay tribute to 'mind-blowing' Serena
Serena Williams' decision to begin winding down her tennis career has saddened world number one Iga Swiatek and Belinda Bencic, who defeated the 40-year-old on Wednesday.
Williams announced on Tuesday that she is about to retire, saying "the countdown has begun" as she looks to "move in a different direction".
While the 23-time singles grand slam champion did not put a specific timeline on her remaining days in tennis, her comment about looking for new challenges after "these next few weeks" suggests the US Open – which she has already been included on the entry list for and starts at the end of August – will be her swansong.
That announcement came on the back of Williams' first singles win in 430 days, a defeat of Nuria Parrizas-Diaz at the Canadian Open in Toronto, but she was subsequently eliminated by Bencic on Wednesday, when the reality of her farewell tour set in.
Williams failed to hold back the tears as she said goodbye to the Toronto crowd for the last time as a player, and Bencic herself could not help feeling a little overcome
She said: "It was definitely very special. I think it was more than just the usual tennis match, also just really exciting, and also a little bit overwhelming for me, of course.
"[It's] great, I can be part of her career and her story and this was just really nice and I'm just really appreciative and honoured to play her so many times, and also here in Toronto.
"I mean, she's really the greatest of all time, so it's really exciting. I could have been on the court against her so many times and even today I really enjoyed it a lot. It was sometimes like a pinch me moment again."
Williams finished five different calendar years as the highest-ranked player in the world, a record only Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova can better.
Swiatek, the current world number one, looks to be the best-placed of the next generation to challenge that achievement, though she recognises a degree of fortune in not having to face Williams at the peak of her powers.
"Well it's always pretty sad when you see such a career coming to an end, but on the other hand she's a legend and I feel like she's done so much," Swiatek added.
"It's really amazing. I'm pretty sad that I wasn't able to play against her and experience that her being the strongest one on tour, but on the other hand, I would be losing against her if I played [her at] that time, so that's fine!
"But she's a legend and everything that she has done on court and off court, she's basically a superstar and the way she handled playing tennis and business and also being a mother, it's mind-blowing. So I'm pretty sure that she's going to have a great second part of her career."