American legend Serena Williams’ dreams of winning an eighth Wimbledon singles title and equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams ended in tears this morning.
The 39-year-old was leading 3-1 in the first set of her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus when she slipped and had to have her left ankle examined.
She returned from receiving medical attention but called it quits at 3-3 and walked off Centre Court in tears, clearly heartbroken as she waved goodbye to the crowd, who gave her a huge wave of applause.
It is the first time in 20 appearances that Williams has bowed out in the first round of Wimbledon.
She skipped her post-match press conference and instead released a statement on Instagram.
“I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg,” Williams wrote. “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.”
World reacts to Serena’s heartbreak
Multiple players, including Novak Djokovic, had slipped several times on Centre Court but this incident had far more serious repercussions for Williams, who was unable to continue.
Roger Federer won his match after Adrian Mannarino took a tumble early in the fifth set of their round one clash, and the Swiss maestro was horrified to hear Williams had suffered the same fate.
“This is obviously terrible that it’s back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well,” Federer said. “Oh, my God, I can’t believe it.”
Andy Murray also weighed in, tweeting: “Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there.”
Wimbledon’s 2019 star Coco Gauff said she could not look as the player who inspired her to take up tennis wept as she left the stage.
“I turned away,” Gauff said after beating British wildcard Francesca Jones in her first round match.
“I was in the gym actually stretching. I turned away because stuff like that makes me, like, really emotional.
“I wish that hopefully she can have a speedy recovery. Yeah, you could tell she was really emotional.
“Nobody ever wants to retire, but especially at a Grand Slam, a place as special as Wimbledon after waiting two years to come back.”
Tennis commentator Jose Morgado described Williams’ retirement as “terrible scenes”, journalist Jon Wertheim said it was “difficult to watch” while reporter Erik Gudris said he was “stunned”.
Podcaster Gauri Devidayal said: “Who else cried watching Serena?”
The tears said it all as with the withdrawals of 2019 champion Simona Halep and of Naomi Osaka prior to the tournament, Williams would have fancied her chances of at last equalling the Court’s Grand Slam landmark.
The American, who also had strapping on her right thigh, hasn’t won a Slam since the 2017 Australian Open.
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