Serena Williams' Wimbledon campaign ended in tears after just six-and-a-half games on Centre Court on Tuesday as the 23-time Grand Slam champion was forced to retire from her first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich with an injury.
Arriving on court with her right thigh heavily strapped, Williams, the No.6 seed was leading the Belarusian by a break in the first set at 3-1, serving at 15-15, before she slipped briefly at the back of the court.
While she never fell to the ground, Williams requested the physio after losing serve in the game and received an off-court medical timeout before returning to the court.
Upon resumption, Sasnovich held serve in the sixth game to level at 3-3, but the match ended shortly afterward. Losing her footing at the baseline once more at 15-15 on serve, Williams made the decision to retire and left Centre Court. She left the court in tears to a standing ovation.
"I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg," Williams said in an Instagram post late Tuesday night..
"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."
Williams had been 19-0 in the first round of Wimbledon. It is just her second career retirement in a Grand Slam match; her first came against Virginia Ruano Pascual in the third round of Wimbledon in 1998.
"It was so nice of an atmosphere out here and it was my first time playing on Centre Court. I'm so sad for Serena," Sasnovich said on-court after the match. "She's a great champion. It happens sometimes in tennis, but [I'm wishing] all the best for her for the best recovery."
Sasnovich further expanded on the disappointing and premature end to the match.
"It's very sad for me, honestly, when your opponent feels bad. She's a great champion, and it's sad story," she said. "I was happy to play against her. She's a great champion. She has a lot of Slams. It was a dream of my dad. He dreamed for eight years in a row, he just wrote me before the match, that I would play with Serena in Wimbledon, and it happened."
A former World No.30 who's now just inside the Top 100 at World No.100, the Belarusian has faced a Top 10 seed in the first round in each of her past three Wimbledon appearances.
In the opening round in 2018, she upset two-time champion and No.8 seed Petra Kvitova, where she eventually reached the round of 16. In 2019, Sasnovich lost to eventual champion and No.7 seed Simona Halep in the first round.
"I could say that grass is one of my favorite surfaces, because it's match very good with my style. I can serve like slice, I can move very well, my legs are really on a good level, like I'm moving fast," Sasnovich said.
"Of course I wanted to play the full match, but it's tennis. It's happens. It's injury. I was ready to play 100% today. I was ready mentally. I was ready strategically. I was ready physically, of course. I was thinking before the match just go and enjoy the tennis, enjoy the atmosphere."
Sasnovich advances to face either Nao Hibino or Bernarda Pera, whose match was suspended ahead of the third set due to darkness after they split sets at 6-1, 5-7.