Serena Williams hinted that retirement might not be far away after winning her first singles match for more than a year.
The 40-year-old defeated world number 57 Nuria Parrizas Diaz 6-3 6-4 at the National Bank Open in Toronto for her first taste of success in singles since the French Open last spring.
Williams had been very vague about her future plans after returning from a year out at Wimbledon but, asked in Canada about her motivation to keep playing, she told reporters: “I guess there’s just a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I don’t know, I’m getting closer to the light. Lately that’s been it for me. I can’t wait to get to that light.”
Asked what the light represented, she replied: “Freedom. I love playing though, so it’s amazing. But I can’t do this forever. So sometimes you just want to try your best to enjoy the moments and do the best that you can.”
Williams lost to Harmony Tan at Wimbledon in her first singles match for a year and will be hoping to find something like her old form before the US Open later this month.
“I was happy to have a win,” she said. “It’s been a very long time. I forgot what it felt like.
“I felt like I competed well and I think that’s what I needed to do is just to compete. Mentally I feel I’m getting there. I’m not where I normally am and I’m not where I want to be. But I think any match that I play, whether I win or lose, it helps me get there.
“Physically I feel much better in practice, it’s just getting that to the court. But literally I’m the kind of person who it just takes one or two things and then it clicks. So I’m just waiting on that to click.”
Venus Williams, who turned 42 in June, was unable to win her first singles match since last year’s Wimbledon, though, losing 6-2 6-3 to Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann.
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina won her first match as a grand-slam winner, battling past Marie Bouzkova 7-5 6-7 (3) 6-1, while last year’s US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez made a winning return from a foot injury suffered at the French Open, beating Storm Sanders 6-4 6-7 (2) 6-3.
Ninth seed Emma Raducanu makes her debut at the tournament later on Tuesday against big-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi.