Serena Williams bit her upper lip. She held her left hand over her mouth and tried to hold back the tears as she prepared to serve.
It was the first set of her first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday, and Williams knew that this stay in a tournament where she had won seven of her 23 singles Grand Slam titles was about to end because she injured her right. leg when it loses support behind the baseline.
Moments later, her legs twisted as she tried to change direction to pursue a shot fired by her 100th-ranked opponent, Alexandra Sasnovich of Belarus. Williams fell to his knees, his head on the grass. She uses her racket to help her stand up, but only to be able to limp to the net to give way – only her second retirement in the middle of any Grand Slam tournament of her career and the first since 1998. here.
“I was devastated that I had to retire today,” Williams said in a statement issued by the tournament.
“The feeling of the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today as I entered – and off – the court,” she said, “meant the world to me.”
Sasnovich said, “She’s a great champion and that’s a sad story.”
Roger Federer certainly formulated common feelings when a reporter told what happened to Williams.
“Oh God,” he said. – I can not believe.”
Williams was serving as she led 3-1 at Center Court – where the retractable roof was closed due to rain that forced the postponement of two dozen games until Wednesday – when her left shoe seemed to lose traction as it hit a forehand.
Williams flinched and stepped carefully between the points, obviously worried. After refusing this game, she asked to visit him with a coach and took a medical wait.
She tried to keep playing. The crowd tried to offer support and encouragement. In the end, the 39-year-old American could not continue. The judge in the chair came down to check on her, and they walked together to the net; the score was 3-all, 15-30 when Williams stopped.
Williams, who started the match with a heavily glued right thigh, raised her racket with her right hand and placed her left palm on her chest. Then she waved to the audience.
Officially, this enters the books as only the second exit from the Grand Slam in the first round of Williams’ career. The other came at the French Open in 2012, where she was defeated by Virginia Razzano. Shortly afterwards, Williams teamed up with coach Patrick Muratoglu and began accumulating specialties to overshadow Steffi Graf’s professional record of 22 and move within one of all Margaret Court’s 24 eras.
“All the best to her,” said Sasnovich, who reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2018 for her best Grand Slam result.
Leaving Williams makes open women’s equality even wider. As it was, defending champion Simona Halep and four-time champion Naomi Osaka retired before the tournament began.
So, even as her 40th birthday approached in September, Williams was among the best contenders. With her best service in the game and stinging blows to the ground, she reached the last four finals when she entered Wimbledon – she won in 2015 and 2016, missed the tournament while pregnant in 2017, and then finished as runner-up in 2018 and 2019. (was canceled last year due to the pandemic).
Williams is hardly the first player to struggle with slippery grass in the first two days of the main draw.
In the match before hers at the main stadium, eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer advanced when his opponent Adrian Manarino injured his right knee late in the fourth set when he fell close to the same place that Williams did.
Federer missed two sets to one, but went ahead 4-2 in the fourth when Manarino fell. He tried to continue, but dropped eight of nine points when they resumed and left him.
“Obviously, Federer admitted that he was the better player.”
Novak Djokovic fell twice in the first set of Monday’s first-round victory at Center Court.
“I feel a little slippery, maybe, under the roof. I don’t know if it’s just an inner feeling. You have to move very, very carefully there. “If you push too hard at the wrong time, you go down,” Federer said. “I feel drier during the day. With the wind and all these things it takes away the moisture from the grass. But that’s obviously awful. “
This was the most significant development on Tuesday, when the winners included Williams’ older sister, 41-year-old Venus, 17-year-old Coco Gauff, the ruling French Open champion Barbora Kreichikova and first seed Ash Barty in the women’s brace, and No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, No. 4 Alexander Zverev and No. 10 Denis Shapovalov in men.
Sebastian Corda, a 20-year-old American whose father, Peter, won the 1998 Australian Open and whose sisters No. 1 Nelly and No. 13 Jessica are in the LPGA, made a successful Wimbledon debut by removing No. 15 seeds Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5).
Venus Williams amassed 10 aces by crushing services at speeds of up to 114 mph – not quite like the old days, but not too worn out. She drove the forehands to the corners. She headed for the fresh volley net.
And when it was all over, she celebrated her first Wimbledon victory since 2018, raising her hands and shouting “Come on!” Before repeating her familiar wave of smiles and spinning at No. 3 Court.
A five-time All England Club singles champion who is making her 23rd appearance here, Williams’ older sister began her record during the 90th Grand Slam with her 90th Wimbledon career victory over Michaela. Buzarnescu from Romania with 7: 5, 4 -6, 6-3.
Venus Williams is a former No. 1 toy, ranked 111th this week and lost in the first or second round in the last eight specialties. This included leaving the first round in 2019 at the All England Club against then-15-year-old Gaff.
“You can’t win them all. Life is about how you deal with challenges. Every point is a challenge on the court. Nobody gives you anything,” said Venus Williams, who was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune syndrome, a decade ago. disease this can cause fatigue and joint pain. “I like to think I’m doing well with my challenges.”