Germany's Andrea Petkovic hits a return to Switzerland's Belinda Bencic during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women's singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 30, 2022. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

Andrea Petkovic burst into tears again and again, the highly emotional roller coaster ride to say goodbye to the big tennis stage left deep marks on her face. While the icon Serena Williams apparently coolly put away the enormous hustle and bustle about her announced resignation, Petkovic seemed very upset. “I wonder how Serena did it,” said the 34-year-old after her first round at the US Open: “I just have so much empathy and sympathy for her.”

Just like the 23-time Grand Slam tournament winner, Petkovic also announced before the US Open that she wanted to end her career afterwards. “I’ve been really devastated for the past five days,” admitted the seven-time WTA tournament champion.

This “pure sadness” almost overwhelmed her in her last Grand Slam game against Olympic champion Belinda Bencic from Switzerland – but then Petkovic addressed the right words to himself: “What do people know you for? what do you stand for For fighting! Run after every ball! Never give up!” After the ultra-nervous start, she offered the favorite a tough fight with a narrow score of 2:6, 6:4, 4:6. “I pulled myself together,” said Petkovic, “that’s how I want to be remembered.”

After 16 eventful years in professional tennis, the former ninth in the world rankings is over – unless she still has a small tournament in Europe. But there will no longer be a 49th Grand Slam for the Darmstadt native – and just the thought of it breaks her heart. “If my body would allow it, I would play for another 35 years,” she jokingly told Eurosport. Injuries had repeatedly slowed down the current number 92 in the world.

And what comes now? The versatile Petkovic, who has tried her hand as a sports presenter, author and columnist in recent years, should not get bored. In any case, she wants to continue acting as a kind of mentor for talents like Jule Niemeier, who on Wednesday night against former Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin ensured the only German first-round victory in New York. “I believed in Jule Niemeier before she was on anyone’s radar screen,” said Petkovic.

When she resigned, another one preempted her: Serena Williams (40). Actually, the German wanted to tell her fans about the planned end of her career three weeks ago, but the US star was faster. “The next morning I wake up my phone blinking too crazy because the Serena piece came out in Vogue,” Petkovic said. “Okay, I figured, so nobody’s going to care anymore.”