Serena Williams’s 2021 Wimbledon came to an abrupt end late Tuesday under the Centre Court roof at Wimbledon. Playing in the first round against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and serving with a 3-1 lead, the 7-time champion appeared to slip and injure her right leg. Moments later she left the court at 3-2 but returned with limp.
Serena gave it a go but was unable to make any movements and retired for just the second time in her career from a Grand Slam.
The 39-year-old Serena did not speak to the press as she left the court with a tear in her eye. If healthy, she will try again to tie Margaret Court’s 24 total Slam haul at the US Open. She turns 40 in September.
In a later statement on Instagram, Serena said: “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.”
While Serena slid out, Ash Barty showed no hip issues which plagued her during the French Open with a 6-1, 6-7(1), 6-1 victory over Carla Saurez Navarro who was playing her final Wimbledon after a long battle with cancer.
Barty dominated both sets she won thanks to 13 aces total. Her only blip was getting broken in a bid to serve it out in the second.
“More than anything, it was a great battle,” Barty said. “In the game where I was trying to serve out the match, I just missed a few too many first serves and Carla was able to take the game on and hit some incredible returns. I think we just kind of accepted that and moved on.”
Suarez Navarro got one last taste of Centre Court.
“I think Wimbledon made me a really good gift,” Suárez Navarro said. “I cannot ask for anything else better than this day.
“One of my last matches here against Ash, No.1 of the world, Centre Court, with the roof. Was amazing. I really enjoy everything I pass through. I think now, today, I am the most happy player in the tournament, for sure.”
Added Barty, “It was incredible to be able to share this experience with Carla. She’s a fighter, an incredible competitor, a lovely person and genuinely you won’t find one bad word about her. I wish both of us could have won. She’ll be very sorely missed.”
Coco Gauff also looked strong getting past 20-year-old British wildcard Francesca Jones. 7-5, 6-4. Gauff, who made headlines in 2019 with her fourth round run at Wimbledon, never faced a break point in the win.
“Today I was really nervous going in, my first time back since everything happened in 2019,” the 17-year-old Gauff said, in her post-match press conference. “Francesca, she came out on the court, she came swinging and playing really well. She played well the whole match. Just a few points here and there that were lucky to go my way. But I think today, like, was a solid first-round performance for me.”
In a match from Monday, Venus Williams toughed out Mihaela Buzarnescu 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. The 41-year-old Venus is playing her 23rd career Wimbledon and 90th Grand Slam. She’ll now face Birmingham winner Ons Jabeur on Wednesday in the second round.
Also winning on a wet Tuesday, which saw over 2 hours of stoppage on the outer courts, were Elise Mertens, Maria Sakkari, Angelique Kerber, Jessica Pegula, Karolina Pliskova and Marta Kostyuk who ended Kiki Bertens’s final Wimbledon.
Tomorrow, Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Victoria Azarenka and Elina Svitolina star in a now Serena-less Wimbledon. And the women’s tournament is over a dozen matches behind schedule.
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