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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 29: Serena Williams of The United States reacts as she winces in pain in her Ladies’ Singles First Round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus during Day Two of The Championships – Wimbledon 2021 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 29, 2021 in London, England. (Photo : AELTC/Jed Leicester – Pool/Getty Images)
Serena Williams’ quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title ended in tears on Tuesday as she was forced to retire in her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich due to a right leg injury.
Tragedy struck in the fifth game of the opening set with Williams holding a 3-1 lead. The 39-year-old unfortunately slipped as she lost her footing near the baseline while hitting a forehand, forcing the seven-time Wimbledon champion to take an injury timeout at the game’s conclusion to receive treatment.
Williams falls short again in Grand Slam record bid
Williams, behind the support of the crowd, tried to battle on but the pain was just too much for her to bear. Williams buckled as she prepared to receive Sasnovich’s return during the seventh game of the first set and spent a few moments down on the court. The umpire came down off her chair to check on Williams who was forced to retire shortly thereafter.
This was just the second time in Williams’ long and storied career that she has retired from a Grand Slam match. Williams’ last match retirement in a major also came here at Wimbledon as she was forced to withdraw in the third round back in 1998.
It was a gut-wrenching end for Williams who entered this tournament in search of a 24th major title, which would have seen her tie Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam wins ever. Williams last won a major at the Australian Open in 2017 and has made four Grand Slam finals since returning after giving birth, including runner-up finishes at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019.
Williams was emotional in her statement after the unexpected first round exit, saying “”I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg. 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.”
Federer advances to second round
It wasn’t just Williams who walked out injured on Centre Court on Tuesday. Hours before Williams’ withdrawal, Adrian Mannarino was also forced to retire after injuring his knee in his match against Roger Federer.
Mannarino was close to pulling off a memorable upset win over Federer and grab his first victory over the Swiss maestro in seven attempts, leading 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 3-6 4-2 when disaster struck in the fourth set. The world number 41 slipped on the slick Centre Court and unfortunately injured his knee.
Mannarino tried to battle on but eventually had to retire after just one point in the decider. The match ended with a score of 6-4, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-2. It was a sad ending for Mannarino who limped off on his 33rd birthday.
Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam champion, will next face 35-year-old Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the second round. Gasquet defeated Yuichi Sugita 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the opening round.
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