Tennis great Serena Williams has limped out of Wimbledon in tears after an ankle injury forced her retirement early in a first-round match against unseeded Belarussian Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
- Williams’ match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich ended after six games, the first time she has failed to make the second round
- Several players have voiced concern about how slippery the Centre Court grass surface is
- In an earlier match, Italy’s Adrian Mannarino retired with a knee injury after slipping over against Roger Federer
The American sixth seed, a seven-time champion bidding for a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles crown, was clearly in pain early in the first set on a slippery Centre Court and limped off for treatment while 3-2 ahead.
Williams returned after a lengthy break but the distress was evident as she grimaced and wiped away tears before preparing to serve at 3-3 after Sasnovich had levelled.
The 39-year-old, who had been 3-1 up before the injury, sank to the grass sobbing, before being helped off the court.
“Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there,” Britain’s Andy Murray said on Twitter.
Sasnovich, who practised her serve while Williams was getting treatment, commiserated with an opponent who had never gone out in the first round at Wimbledon in her previous 19 visits.
Williams has been a Wimbledon finalist in her last four appearances but her bid to equal 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-ranked Simona Halep, hopes were rising of another year to remember.
“It was hard for me to watch that,” said compatriot Coco Gauff.
“She’s the reason why I started to play tennis. It’s hard to watch any player get injured, but especially her.”
Eight-time men’s singles champion Roger Federer expressed shock at Williams’ departure and voiced concern about the surface, with the roof closed on Centre Court on a rainy afternoon.
His first-round opponent Adrian Mannarino of France also retired with a knee injury after a slip.
“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof. I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling,” Federer said.
“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.”