Serena Williams’s 20th Wimbledon ended shortly after it began. She retired 34 minutes into the primary set of her first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Tuesday night due to a right hamstring injury. “I was heartbroken to possess to withdraw today after injuring my right leg,” Williams wrote during a post on Instagram, adding: “Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the gang today once I walked on — and off — the court meant the planet to me.” It was poignant to ascertain Williams, one among the good champions in any sport, in pain and in tears on the famous patch of grass where she has often triumphed through the years. She has won seven Wimbledon singles titles, six women’s doubles titles, and one mixed doubles title on Centre Court.
Tuesday brought her earliest exit in singles at the All England Club. Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, said during a text message that the injury was to the “top of the hamstring.” Williams started her match against Sasnovich together with her right thigh taped, even as it had been during the French Open early this month in Paris. But Williams still began in impressive fashion Tuesday, ripping second-serve returns with ruthless precision to require a 3-1 lead under the closed roof on Centre Court. But while serving within the next game at 15-15, Williams slipped as she changed direction. After losing the purpose, she stopped for several seconds, staring down at the grass. She went on to lose her serve then walked gingerly to her chair, where she was examined by a trainer.
Williams left the court for treatment and returned several minutes later, limping slightly. She resumed play, but struggled to maneuver as Sasnovich held serve to form the score 3-3. Williams, in obvious distress, began crying at the baseline as she prepared to start out her next service game. Unable to push off, she missed her first serve, then put a low-velocity second serve life and slapped a backhand winner because the crowd roared to encourage her. But on the subsequent point, Williams hit a forehand awkwardly into the internet. subsequent point clothed to be the ultimate one. She tried to shift direction during a baseline rally and cried call at pain as she fell forward onto the grass. Coco Gauff, the rising 17-year-old American, was watching television within the Wimbledon gym. She said she had to show far away from the screen.
“It was hard on behalf of me to observe that,” Gauff said. “I’m an enormous fan of her, albeit I’m a competitor now. But she’s the rationale why I began to play tennis. It’s hard to observe any player get injured, but especially her.” The chair umpire, Marija Cicak, climbed down from her post and was soon by Williams’s side. They walked toward the internet together, where Williams retired and shook the 100th-ranked Sasnovich’s hand. It was the second consecutive retirement on Centre Court. within the preceding match, Adrian Mannarino of France stopped play early within the fifth set against Roger Federer, an eight-time Wimbledon singles champion. “This is clearly terrible that it’s back-to-back matches, and it hits Serena also,” Federer said when informed of Williams’s retirement. “I can’t believe it.”
After gathering her belongings, Williams limped off Centre Court, her accreditation badge dangling from her hand, and performed one among her traditional pirouettes. But after a final wave to the gang, she stumbled again as she reached the passageway behind the foremost famous court in tennis, where she last won the singles title in 2016. Though she stayed on her feet, she needed help to steer into the clubhouse. Williams, 39, has been chasing a record-tying 24th slam singles title since returning to the tour in 2018 after the birth of her daughter, Olympia. Seeded sixth at Wimbledon, she was still considered a favorite for the title by many bookmakers, alongside the planet No. 1, Ashleigh Barty. “It’s not like she lost a match,” said Tracy Austin, a former No. 1. “She was winning then one slip and minutes later she’s out of the tournament. Everyone knows her opportunities are diminishing. Maybe we’re all focusing an excessive amount on the record rather than celebrating what she has accomplished.”
This was only the second first-round exit from a slam singles tournament in Williams’s long career. She was beaten within the first round of the French Open in 2012 by Virginie Razzano of France. “It’s very sad on behalf of me honestly, when your opponent feels bad,” said Sasnovich, a former top-30 player from Belarus who had never faced Williams before. “She’s an excellent champion, and it’s a tragic story.” Williams, who said earlier in the week that she wouldn’t play at the Tokyo Olympics, has had increasing trouble with injuries since her comeback. She withdrew during the French Open in 2018 and 2020. At the 2019 Australian Open, she injured her left ankle during her quarterfinal loss to Karolina Pliskova but completed the match.
This time, after waiting two years to return to Wimbledon due to the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, she couldn’t finish, and her injury raised questions on the condition of the grass. Slips and tumbles aren’t uncommon within the opening days of the tournament, as players navigate the fresh grass behind the baselines before it gets worn. “Those first two matches are always extremely difficult, but it’s always been like this,” said Federer, who is playing in his 22nd Wimbledon. “I pity tons of players. It’s super key to urge through those first two rounds because the grass is more slippery. It’s softer. because the tournament progresses, usually it gets harder and easier to maneuver on.”
Sasnovich said she had also struggled to remain on her feet. “When she did an angle, I couldn’t run because it had been so slippery,” she said of Williams. Experience, often a plus on grass, wasn’t enough to stay champions from tumbling within the first round. Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 men’s player, and a five-time Wimbledon champion fell twice in his victory over Jack Draper on Monday. Mannarino, a French veteran who turned 33 on Tuesday, was leading Federer by two sets to at least one. But Mannarino slipped as he changed direction with Federer serving while leading by 4-2 within the fourth set. Mannarino landed awkwardly, his left leg extending and his right knee twisting. He said he heard “a crack” in his knee and remained on his back on the grass for quite a moment before limping to his chair to be examined by tournament medical officials.
After Federer closed out the fourth set at 6-2, Mannarino retired following the opening point of the fifth set, and Federer, 39, advanced to the second round. “Warming up before the match, the court seemed quite slippery, and that i didn’t feel comfortable,” Mannarino said. “The weather was rather humid. I don’t know if there have been problems with the court. I’m not a specialist. I can only mention my sensations.” Federer said that Gerry Armstrong, the tournament referee, had asked him after the match for his opinion on the court’s condition.
“I said, ‘I think the court plays normally as we all know it,’” Federer said. “I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof. I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling. you are doing need to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard within the wrong moments, you go down. I do feel it’s drier during the day. With the wind and everyone that stuff, it takes the moisture out of the grass.” Earlier on Tuesday, Williams’s older sister Venus, 41, defeated Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. it had been the primary victory at Wimbledon for Venus Williams since 2018. It remains to be seen what percentage more moments Serena Williams will wear Centre Court. She, like Federer, is approaching her 40th birthday, but she features a model in her circle of relatives who have demonstrated that 40 isn’t an impassable barrier in tennis.