WIMBLEDON, England — Serena Williams retired from her first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday because of a leg injury.
Williams, an eight-time Wimbledon singles champion, started her match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus with her right thigh taped. But Williams began in impressive fashion, moving aggressively and ripping returns with precision to take a 3-1 lead.
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But when serving in the next game at 15-15, Williams slipped while changing direction, appearing to twist her left ankle. After losing the point, she stopped for several seconds, staring down at the grass. She went on to lose her serve and then walked gingerly to her chair, where she was examined by a trainer. She left the court for treatment and re-emerged several minutes later, limping slightly. She resumed play, but after Sasnovich held serve to 3-3, Williams, in obvious distress, began crying at the baseline as she prepared to start her next service game.
She then fell while trying to change direction and retired from the match, waving to the crowd as she limped off Centre Court, where she last won the singles title in 2016.
Williams, 39, has been chasing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title since returning to the tour in 2018 after the birth of her daughter, Olympia. Seeded sixth at Wimbledon, she was still considered one of the pretournament favorites.
This was only the second first-round exit in Williams’s long career in a Grand Slam singles tournament. She was beaten in the first round of the French Open in 2012 by Virginie Razzano of France.
“Of course I’m so sad for Serena; she’s a great champion,” Sasnovich said in her post-match interview. “It happens sometimes, but all the best to her, the best recovery.”
Williams has had increasing trouble with injuries since her comeback. She withdrew during the French Open in 2018 and 2020. At the 2019 Australian Open, she injured her left ankle during her quarterfinal loss to Karolina Pliskova.