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 as further doubt was cast on her future in the sport.
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 her left ankle examined.
Williams returned from receiving medical attention but called it a day at 3-3 and walked off Centre Court in tears.
Perhaps tellingly, she waved to all four sides of the court as she left.
It is the first time that Williams has bowed out in the opening round of Wimbledon in 20 appearances.
She had only once previously lost in the first round at any Slam in the 2012 French Open.
The tears said it all as with the withdrawals of 2019 champion Simona Halep and of Naomi Osaka prior to the tournament the American would have fancied her chances of at last equalling the controversial Court’s landmark.
“Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there,” tweeted British star Andy Murray.
Wimbledon’s 2019 star Coco Gauff said she could not look as the player who inspired her to take up tennis wept as she left the stage.
“I turned away,” said 17-year-old Gauff after beating British wildcard Francesca Jones in her first round match.
“I was in the gym actually stretching. I turned away because stuff like that makes me, like, really emotional.”