June 30, (THEWILL) – An emotionally overtaken Serena Williams was forced to exit Wimbledon 2021 in the middle of her first set in the first round of the All-England Club competition due to an injury she sustained in the set. She retired from the match and ceded progression to the next round to her opponent Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.
This effectively cuts through Williams’ long-held dream of equalling the longrunning Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record of 24 and means she will have to try again at another Slam and also wait for next year if she desires an eighth Wimbledon singles title.
A match that began competitively for the 23-time Grand Slam champion, ended in tears when she slipped and had to have her left ankle examined. Williams had gone to hit a forehand in the fifth game but slipped on the grass. Wincing in pain she tried to continue playing, gingerly applying pressure on the affected ankle. But she went to her locker room after losing that game.
The 39-year-old returned to continue with the score 3-3 after the first six sets of the match, only for her leg to buckle during a rally. Williams crumbled to the court. Visibly in tears, the American tennis icon bit her upper lip and covered her face with the crowd giving her a round of applause as a mental support to prop her up. Eventually, unable to take it anymore, Williams dropped to her knees and retired.
Getting up, Williams shook hands with Sasnovich at the net to signal that she had conceded with the score at 3-all and 15-30 in the service game of the seventh set. She acknowledged the support of the applauding crowds with a raised racket and a palm on her chest while she turned around the court in a tearful goodbye and left Wimbledon.
The records will mark it as the second ever first-round Grand Slam exit of Williams’ glorious career but the discussion about the slippery nature of the turf at Wimbledon will now come front and centre. As THEWILL reported, world number one Novak Djokovic endured a couple of falls in his first match also but fortunately escaped injury.
The inclement Wimbledon weather has made the postponement of some games of the Open the way out for organisers but the physical health of players who have prepared adequately and maintained themselves in shape to be at a major Grand Slam cannot be compromised by slippery courts.
If the organisers do not get a grip on the situation to prevent recurrence and more falls result in further withdrawals, then questions will need to be raised on the jeopardy the handlers of the quality of the competition have put the players through especially one in the mould of Williams who, at 39, does not have the time to stay injured before returning to continue her quest for glory.
British player Andy Murray joined a chorus of players raising concerns about Wimbledon’s Centre Court surface being too slippery after Williams was forced to retire.
Her forced exit was the second retirement in a row on tennis’s most famous court after the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino twisted his knee while he was two sets to one up against Roger Federer.
Reacting on social media, Murray said: “Brutal for Serena Williams but Centre Court is extremely slippery out there. Not easy to move out there.”
Federer, meanwhile, was in a Press Conference when he heard that Williams had been forced to retire. His reaction was a confirmation of the problem: “Oh, my God, I can’t believe it. It’s obviously terrible that it’s back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well.
“You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down.”
Something needs to be done to arrest these slippery surfaces for the sake of tennis and the players. And it needs to be done quickly too.