The seven-time champion was bidding for a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles crown (like Margaret Court) before tearfully exiting the match.
Serena Willams was all set to make Wimbledon history when she was forced to retire early due to an ankle injury. It was in the first-round match against unseeded Belarusian player, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, that we saw the American sixth seed limping out of the field clearly in pain. The seven-time champion was bidding for a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles crown (like Margaret Court) when she entered the match wearing a strapping on her right thigh, reports The Guardian. The 39-year-old was leading 3-1 but unfortunately fell twice on the slippery Centre Court.
Serena Williams is in tears as she serves at 3-3.— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) June 29, 2021
She falls again, and retires.
She is in floods of tears as she waves to the crowd.
This absolutely cannot be how her #Wimbledon career ends. It can't. She HAS to come back.
She has to. pic.twitter.com/FQiRgemkda
When she was 3-2 ahead, Williams limped off for treatment. Although she did return after a lengthy break, it was quite evident that Williams was in excruciating pain. It was distressing to see the tennis great grimace and wipe her tears while preparing to serve at 3-3. The American athlete eventually sank to the grass, held back due to her injury. She began sobbing profusely and had to be helped off the court, reports ABC News. Expressing her disappointment on Instagram, Williams wrote, "I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg."
"My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on centre court so meaningful. Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on - and off - the court meant the world to me," she continued.
"I’m so sad for Serena," expressed Sasnovich as she condoled with Williams who never went out in the first round at Wimbledon in her past 19 visits. "She’s a great champion, This happens sometimes in tennis. I wish all the best for her, and a good recovery," she added, according to CNN.
Serena Willams is out of Wimbledon in the first round, after exiting with a leg injury. https://t.co/Mmt6pz4c8B— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 29, 2021
Even Andy Murray expressed his sympathies for Williams' unfortunate condition. "Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there," wrote the British professional tennis player on Twitter. Fellow tennis player Coco Gauff said, "It was hard for me to watch that." She added, "She's the reason why I started to play tennis. It's hard to watch any player get injured, but especially her." Roger Federer, eight-time men's singles champion, also voiced his concerns about the slippery surface of the court and pointed that the roof closed on Centre Court during a rainy afternoon.
Federer's first opponent Adrian Mannarino of France was also set back due to a similar reason - a knee injury due to a slip. "I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof. I don't know if it's just a gut feeling," explained Federer. "You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down," he said adding, "I feel for a lot of players, it's super key to get through those first two rounds because the grass is more slippery, it is more soft. As the tournament progresses, usually it gets harder and easier to move on."
Serena Williams and Adrian Mannarino each slipped and were forced to retire after suffering injuries at #Wimbledon today.— ESPN (@espn) June 29, 2021
The injuries occured in back-to-back matches at Centre Court. pic.twitter.com/Z3hLDv3bAI
What's more heartbreaking is the fact that Williams had worked extremely hard to get back on the court. She had not played since the Australian Open three months ago. The tennis star did return on clay to play three events, including the French Open. She even went into Wimbledon despite not playing a warm-up event on grass. It is not certain whether she will return or not.
Cover image source: Getty | Photo by AELTC/Jed Leicester - Pool