Williams, who recently announced she would not play in the Olympics, arrived on court with her right thigh heavily bandaged. The 23-time Grand Slam champion was leading Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich by a break in the first set at 3-1, serving at 15-15, when she slipped at the back of the grass court. Williams did not fall to the ground, but received an off-court medical timeout and treatment on her left ankle before returning to the court.
When the match resumed, Sasnovich held serve in the sixth game to even the score at 3-3. Williams lost her footing at the again at the baseline on a serve and made the decision to retire. She left Centre Court to a standing ovation.
Serena Williams retires with injury from her Round 1 match at #Wimbledon
Get well soon, Serena. 💔pic.twitter.com/Y9ex4N8L3P
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) June 29, 2021
Williams had previously been 19-0 in the first round of Wimbledon all-time.
“It was so nice of an atmosphere out here and it was my first time playing on Centre Court. I’m so sad for Serena,” Sasnovich said on-court after the match. “She’s a great champion. It happens sometimes in tennis, but [I’m wishing] all the best for her for the best recovery.”
Williams absence from Wimbledon is obviously a blow to her campaign to win her 24th grand slam match. This year’s Wimbledon was seen a a prime chance for her to reach that mark.
It’s also a blow to fans and certainly will hurt TV ratings among American fans hoping to see her victorious. Williams’ older sister Venus is still in the tournament, however, after winning a marathon contest with Mihaela Buzarnescu.
Injuries and fatigue have plagued the world of tennis in the past few weeks.
Williams’ injury occurred shortly after Adrian Mannarino was also forced to retire on Centre Court against Roger Federer after slipping.
No. 3-ranked Simona Halep announced on Monday that will not be competing at the Olympics due to a calf injury.
20-time Grand Slam champion Rapael Nadal said earlier this month that he will not play in this year’s Wimbledon or at the Olympic Games, citing his body’s need to recover. Nadal, 35, pointed to the short timeline between the French Open and Wimbledon as part of his decision.
World No. 2 Naomi Osaka, announced two weeks ago that she was withdrawing from Wimbledon, pulling out of her second major tournament in a month. In a social media post addressing the first withdrawal, Osaka cited social anxiety, media pressure and long bouts of depression.
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