LONDON – Tennis star Serena Williams limped tears out of Wimbledon after Tuesday after her latest bid for a record-breaking 24th Grand Slam singles crown ended in injury.
The American sixth seed and seven-time Wimbledon winner was clearly in pain on a slippery Center Court and seeking treatment while she was 3-2 up in her first round match against the unusual Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Williams returned after a long break, but the accident was obvious.
She grimaced and wiped tears away before preparing to serve at 3-3 after Sasnovich was pulled back from 3-1 down.
The 39-year-old, who had started the fight by straining her right thigh, then let out a scream and sank kneeling to the grass sobbing before being helped off the pitch with an apparent ankle injury.
“Brutal for @serenawilliams but center court is extremely slippery out there. Not easy to move out there, ”Britain’s Andy Murray said on Twitter.
Sasnovich, who practiced her serving while Williams was in treatment, came up with an opponent who had never gone out in the first round of Wimbledon in his previous 19 visits.
“I’m so sad for Serena, she’s a great champion,” said world number 100. “It happens sometimes.”
Eight-time men’s singles champion Roger Federer expressed shock over Williams’ departure and expressed concern over the surface with the roof closed at Center Court on a rainy afternoon.
His opponent in the first round Adrian Mannarino from France also withdrew with a knee injury after a drop in the match just before Williams’.
“I feel it feels a little smoother maybe under the roof. I do not know if it’s just a gut feeling. You have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you go down, ”Federer said.
“I feel for many players, it is the super key to get through the first two rounds, because the grass is smoother, it is softer. As the tournament progresses, it usually gets harder and easier to advance. ”
Williams has been a Wimbledon finalist in her last four appearances, but her bid to resemble Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles has stalled since her last in Australia in 2017.
With the absence this year of world number two Naomi Osaka and third-placed Simona Halep, hopes of another year to remember rose.
“It was hard for me to see it,” said compatriot Coco Gauff. “She’s the reason I started playing tennis. It’s hard to see any player get hurt, but especially her. ”
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