The tennis world was shaken by the announcement of Serena Williams' upcoming retirement.
“I was a little surprised to his decision, said Eugène Lapierre. I thought she would have tried to regain her level of play of yesteryear.
“But hey, she had a child, recalls the boss of the National Bank Open. She did her part.
“Serena was the greatest tennis player in history, claimed Lapierre, with her 23 Grand Slam titles. And I don't think that record will be broken. ”
A great ambassador
“It’s not counting on her personality. She has raised the profile of women's tennis to a very high level. In addition, she is a woman of color who has championed diversity for the sport and for people of all races.
“All in all, she has been a great ambassador for international tennis . »
If Serena has never won in Montreal (beaten in the final in 2000 by the Swiss Martina Hingis), she lifted the winner's trophy in Toronto on three occasions (2001, 2011 and 2013).
Her last visit to Montreal dates back to 2014 where she was defeated by her sister Venus in the semi-finals.
Lapierre recalled a anecdote concerning the youngest of the Williams sisters.
“At my first tournament as manager in Montreal in 2002, her father came to tell me, two hours before the start of her match, that Serena could not play due to a knee injury.
“I then asked her father if Serena could address the crowd to explain her forfeit. Everyone had paid to see her play at the stadium. »
To please the public
Finally, she accepted, to the delight of the tournament director.
I go down the tunnel that leads to the field with her, says Lapierre, and I remembered that she could speak French.
“But, she didn't want to. I persisted and told her: “if you know a few words, that would be a good time to speak in French”.
“But she arrives in front of the microphone in the center of the field in addressing the crowd as follows: “Bonsoir Montréal”.
“Then she continued to address herself in French to explain that she was hurt. Even if the spectators were deprived of seeing her play, they continued to applaud her,” concluded Lapierre.