LONDON (AFP) – American legend Serena Williams’s dreams of winning an eighth Wimbledon singles title and equalling Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record of 24 ended in tears on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old was leading 3-1 in the first set of her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus when she slipped and had to have off court medical attention.
She returned but called it quits at 3-3 and walked off Centre Court in tears.
“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.
It is the first time in 20 appearances that Williams has bowed out in the first round of Wimbledon.
“Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there,” tweeted British star Andy Murray.
Williams, who also had strapping on her right thigh, hasn’t won a Slam since the 2017 Australian Open.
Earlier, Swiss legend Roger Federer and Australia’s world number one Ashleigh Barty both progressed but only after overcoming scares.
They at least were able to play to their schedule due to the roof on Centre Court but those on the outside courts had to kick their heels for several hours because of rain.
As a result 27 singles matches had to be deferred to Wednesday and men’s doubles matches will be the best of three sets in the first and second rounds as organizers try to get the schedule back on track.
Federer arrived on the back of a disappointing second round exit at Halle, a tournament he all but owns having won it 10 times but said he was pumped up for Wimbledon.
The 39-year-old eight-time champion looked to be more deflated than pumped up when he trailed Frenchman Adrian Mannarino by two sets to one.
However, already a break up in the fourth and looking more like the Federer of old the match turned when Mannarino tumbled towards the end of the fourth set.
His fall was at the same end of Centre Court which was also to claim Williams.
His 33rd birthday turned into a nightmare as he had to retire at 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 3-6, 6-2.
“He was the better player, he could have won, I got a bit lucky,” said Federer.
Barty came through 6-1, 6-7 (1/7), 6-1 against Carla Suarez Navarro in a match filled with emotion on Centre Court.
Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev went through with a 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3) win over Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.
“I was a bit surprised by the first two sets that I managed to win so easy, that’s why Grand Slams are funny,” said Medvedev.
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany had lost to qualifiers in 2018 (Ernests Gulbis in the third round) and 2019 (Jiri Vesely 1st rd) but he breezed past Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 in just 89 minutes.
Australian men’s number one Alex de Minaur lost in four sets to Sebastian Korda, two days after the victor’s sister Nelly won her first golf major.