SERENA WILLIAMS was left in tears after she was forced to retire through injury after slipping in her first-round match at Wimbledon.
The American legend’s left ankle gave way as she tried to hit a return in just the fifth game against Belarusian opponent Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Williams, 39, left the court for treatment and tried to continue on her return, despite looking visibly upset.
She fell to the turf again at 3-3, crying out in pain and was forced to concede the match – helped off the court by medics.
It ended her chances of finally winning a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title – at least at SW19 this year.
The world No8 has been stuck on 23 since winning the Australian Open in 2017 and has lost the last two Wimbledon finals as she aims to draw level with Margaret Court.
After Williams’ withdrawal, Sasnovich said: “I’m so sad for Serena, she’s a great champion.
“It happens sometimes in tennis. But all the best to her in her recovery.”
Former British No1 Annabel Croft added: “The work that she’s put in to try and win this elusive 24th title…
“I just can’t believe the pain and emotion she’s going through right now.”
British star Sir Andy Murray – who booked his place in the second round with a win over Nikoloz Basilashvili on Monday – tweeted his support for Williams.
Murray wrote: “Brutal for @serenawilliams but Centre Court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there.”
Roger Federer – who won his first-round match – added he believed Centre Court was a little more slippery with the roof closed.
After learning of Williams’ withdrawal, the Swiss legend said: “It feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof.
“I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling. You do have to move very, very carefully out there.
“If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down.
“I feel for a lot of players, it’s super key to get through those first two rounds because the grass is more slippery, it is more soft.
“As the tournament progresses, usually it gets harder and easier to move on.
“This is obviously terrible that it’s hit Serena. Oh my God, I can’t believe it.”
Adrian Mannarino, who also retired injured on Tuesday, added: “I think I just sprained my knee.
“A basic grass court injury that happened to me before in the past ten years when I was playing qualifiers in Roehampton.
“I felt the same sensation on court. I just slid down and it was really slippery.
“I heard a big crack and I knew straight away that I wouldn’t be able to do anything anymore.”
Last week, Williams had already revealed she would NOT take part at the Tokyo Olympics.
The US legend won singles gold at London 2012 and is a three-time winner in the doubles.
But she will not take part in Tokyo next month – though refused to explain why.
Asked if she had decided to compete at the greatest sporting show on Earth, Williams replied: “I’m actually not on the Olympic list, so… not that I’m aware of.
“If so, then I shouldn’t be on it.
“There’s a lot of reasons that I made my Olympic decision… I don’t feel like going into them today. Maybe another day.”
The Sun (UK)