Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner, was forced to withdraw from her first-round match at Wimbledon 2021 due to an injury on Tuesday in London. Men’s No. 8 Roger Federer and women’s No. 1 Ash Barty progressed.
Williams seemed to injure her knee after she slid on the damp grass court at the All England Club during the first set of her match against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
She attempted to play through the injuries, but she was unable to reach returns and was driven to tears as she attempted to serve. She later fell again, waved to the fans, and went off the court.
“I’m so sad for Serena,” Sasnovich said in her on-court interview. “She is a great champion. It happens sometimes in tennis. All the best to her and the best recovery for her.”
Williams’ career has only one Grand Slam retirement prior to Tuesday’s early departure. She also retired early from Wimbledon in 1998. Williams has won seven Wimbledon singles titles.
Earlier in the day, Barty defeated Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-1, 6-7, 6-1 in 1 hour, 44 minutes. In the second round, the Australian will face either Russian Anna Blinkova or Hungarian Timea Babos.
When questioned about Suarez Navarro, Barty said, “She is a hell of a competitor and a hell of a fighter,” “It was a privilege to share the court with her today.”
No. 13 Karolina Pliskova on the Czech Republic, No. 16 Elise Mertens of Belgium, No. 17 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and No. 18 Maria Sakkari of Greece were among the top women to advance through Tuesday’s early wave of first-round matches.
No. 23 Cori “Coco” Gauff, No. 26 Jessica Pegula and Shelby Rogers each won their matches, but fellow Americans Ann Li and Alison Riske suffered first-round losses.
Gauff beat Great Britain’s Francesca Jones 7-5, 6-4 in a match that took one hour and 37 minutes. The 17-year-old Delray Beach, Fla., native recorded nine aces and 22 winners in the victory.
She battles Russian Elena Vesnina or Italian Martina Trevisan in the second round.
“I was just super nervous,” Gauff said in her on-court interview. “I’m just happy I was able to come through with a win.
Venus Williams of the United States also progressed with a three-set victory over Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania.
Venus came into the event having lost three of her previous four Grand Slam first-round matches. In the second round, the seven-time Grand Slam champion will face Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.
“You can’t win them all,” Venus said to the press. “Life is all about how you deal with adversity. On the court, each point is a challenge. Nobody ever offers you anything.”
The top men to advance Tuesday at the All England Club were No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, No. 6 Alexander Zverev of Germany, and No. 12 Denis Shapovalov of Canada.
Federer said he was “lucky” to advance out of the first round, due to a walkover from opponent Adrian Mannarino of France.
Federer and Mannarino were deadlocked at two sets apiece in the fifth set when Mannarino quit with what seemed to be a knee injury. In the two-hour, 44-minute encounter, Federer hit 16 aces and 54 winners.
“I wish him all the best and I hope he recovers quickly so we see him back on the court,” Federer said during his on-court interview. “Obviously, he could have won the match at the end. He was the superior player. I was really unlucky.”
In the second round, the 20-time Grand Slam winner will face France’s Richard Gasquet.
ESPN2 will broadcast first-round matchups until 4:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. The first round of second-round matches airs on ESPN on Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT.