Serena Williams withdrew from Wimbledon during her first-round match with a leg injury.
Williams, after slipping behind the baseline on an earlier point, was broken by Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus to get back on serve in the first set at 3-2.
She limped toward her chair, was looked at by a trainer and left Centre Court during an injury timeout.
Williams, playing the whole match with her right thigh fully wrapped, returned and played one full game before retiring. Sasnovich won it. Williams was in tears to start the next game on serve, dropped to the court on the third point and retired.
She spun and waved to the crowd as she left the court to applause, then buckled over as she neared an exit that’s out of full view to the crowd. Williams was grabbing the back of her wrapped upper right thigh.
“I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg,” was posted on her social media two hours later. “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.”
Sasnovich said the court felt “very slippery.”
“When she did the angle, I couldn’t run because it was so slippery,” the 100th-ranked player said.
Williams, 39, is a seven-time Wimbledon champion who reached the final in her last four appearances at the All England Club.
Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, exited in the first round for the second time in 79 career majors (2012 French Open).
In the previous Centre Court match, Frenchman Adrian Mannarino slipped and fell on the same side of the court and ultimately retired at the start of the next and fifth set against Roger Federer.
“Oh, my God, I can’t believe it,” Federer said when told of Williams’ retirement that happened during his post-match press conference. “It’s always been like this [court conditions]. 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.”
Before learning of Williams’ retirement, Federer said he thought the court was playing normally.
“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof,” he said. The roof was closed for Federer and Williams’ matches due to rain. “I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling. You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down.”
Also Tuesday, Venus Williams became the fourth-oldest woman to win a Wimbledon singles match. Coco Gauff, the 20th seed in her first Wimbledon match since her breakout fourth-round run in 2019, beat British wildcard Francesca Jones 7-5, 6-4.
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We're heartbroken for you, Serena.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 29, 2021
Serena Williams receives a standing ovation from the crowd at #Wimbledon
Williams was forced to retire in the first round of after sustaining an apparent injury. pic.twitter.com/exFZxJJZGh
— ESPN (@espn) June 29, 2021