Western and Southern Open: Emma Raducanu beats Serena Williams in straight sets

The 40-year-old tennis champion has not explicitly shared which tournament will be her last. Credit: AP

Emma Raducanu has defeated Serena Williams in their first and potentially last ever encounter on the court at the Western and Southern Open.

Williams fell to 0-2 in matches since announcing “the countdown has begun” on her career, losing 6-4, 6-0 to Raducanu in Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

Williams, 40, struggled to find consistency in her fourth match of the season.

She gave up 12 unforced errors while making just 11 winners in the first round of the Western and Southern Open.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Brit settled in to her rhythm early, breaking the 23-time major champion twice in the opening set before racing away in the second to claim her 12th win of the season.

The US Open champion paid tribute to Williams in her on-court interview after the match and said: "We all need to just honour Serena and her amazing career".

“I can’t believe I just played Serena Williams,” she continued.

“It’s something that I think I’m really fortunate to have been able to do, and for our careers to have crossed when there’s such a big (age) gap and watching her growing up, it was an amazing experience to just play her.”

“Everything that she’s achieved is so inspirational and it was a true honour to share the court with her," she added.

Williams said last week in a Vogue magazine essay and an Instagram post that her career was winding down as she admitted that retiring from the sport was the "hardest thing I could ever imagine".

The tennis legend is a 23-time Grand Slam champion, most recently in 2017 at the Australian Open, when she was pregnant with daughter Olympia. She said wanting to expand her family was a big reason she plans to step away.

However, she did not explicitly say the US Open, which begins August 29 in New York, would be her last tournament.

Williams was sidelined for a year by a torn hamstring suffered last year at Wimbledon, and her late-career injuries have contributed to inconsistency on the court.

Raducanu - ranked No 19 in the world - hit just one unforced error in her victory over Williams and intends to take all the momentum she can into her next match against another WTA Tour veteran in Victoria Azarenka.

The pair shook hands after the match. Credit: AP

“I think it’s important to really cherish the wins, because I think that if anything, this year has taught me that the wins don’t come by easily,” said Raducanu, who has struggled with blisters on her hands.

“No matter what win that is, it means a lot to any athlete, and I definitely am going to take it in, be really proud of myself.”

Raducanu added: “It is a fast turnover tomorrow, and I probably have got 12 hours until I’m back on site. I’m playing another slam champion, so it’s obviously going to be really difficult. Just going to try to prepare as best as possible.”

Belarusian former world number one Azarenka overcame Kaia Kanepi in the opening round.

Looking ahead to the match, Raducanu said: “I remember more recently when she was playing in the US Open and made the final in 2020 during the bubble, I was studying for my exams.

“I hadn’t played tennis in like two, three months, and I was kind of just dreaming that one day I’m going to play on Ashe (Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows), and one day I’m going to be at that level and playing these great players myself. Everything felt so far away.”