Serena Williams has left what could potentially be her final outing at Wimbledon in tears, after slipping and injuring herself during her first round match.
The 23-time grand slam winner was leading Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 3-1 in the first set when she lost her footing.
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Williams received medical attention on her injured right leg, but was unable to carry on and withdrew from the match at 3-3.
The 39-year-old has battled increasingly difficult injury problems in her quest to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles, but has also announced she most likely will not contest the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
After making the decision to forfeit at Wimbledon, Williams waved to all four corners of the All-England crowd - almost as though it was a farewell of sorts.
"I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg," she said in a statement posted late evening on her Instagram account.
However, she gave no indication in the statement of how serious the injury was nor about her future.
It is the first time that Williams has bowed out in the opening round of Wimbledon in 20 appearances.
She had only once previously lost in the first round at any Slam, in the 2012 French Open.
The tears said it all as with the withdrawals of 2019 champion Simona Halep and of Naomi Osaka prior to the tournament the American would have fancied her chances of at last equalling the controversial Court's landmark.
"Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there," tweeted British star Andy Murray.
Wimbledon's 2019 star Coco Gauff said she could not look as the player who inspired her to take up tennis wept as she left the stage.
Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there.
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) June 29, 2021
Q. We've just seen Serena Williams unfortunately have to retire after slipping.
ROGER FEDERER: C'mon...
...This is obviously terrible that it's back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well. Oh, my God, I can't believe it.#Wimbledon
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 29, 2021
"I turned away," said 17-year-old Gauff after beating British wildcard Francesca Jones in her first round match.
"I was in the gym actually stretching. I turned away because stuff like that makes me, like, really emotional."
Concern over Wimbledon surfaces as players slipping
Gauff, who in 2019 as a qualifier beat Serena Williams's elder sister Venus on her way to the last 16, said she hoped the injury was not too severe.
"I wish that hopefully she can have a speedy recovery," said Gauff.
"Yeah, you could tell she was really emotional.
"Nobody ever wants to retire, but especially at a Grand Slam, a place as special as Wimbledon after waiting two years to come back (it was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic)."
Williams, who also had strapping on her right thigh, hasn't won a Slam since the 2017 Australian Open losing in four finals, twice at Wimbledon and two at the US Open.
Sasnovich said she felt for her "a great champion, and it's a sad story."
"It was very slippery, I felt, as well.
"When she did the angled shot, I couldn't run because it was so slippery.
"But, okay, it's the same for everyone," added Sasnovich.
Williams's slip came at the same end of the court as that of Adrian Mannarino which brought a premature end to the Frenchman's hard fought match with Roger Federer.
Mannarino fell late in the fourth set and pulled out at the beginning of the fifth set.
Federer felt the surface was more slippery when the roof is in use which it had been due to rain earlier on Tuesday.
"You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down," said Federer.
"This is obviously terrible that it's back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well. Oh, my God, I can't believe it."
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