Slippery surface on Centre Court claims Serena but saves Federer at Wimbledon

Seven-time champion Serena Williams retired from her first round match at Wimbledon due to injury.
Seven-time champion Serena Williams retired from her first round match at Wimbledon due to injury. Adrian DENNIS AFP

After her first round exit at Wimbledon due to injury, it would be a symmetry that only Serena Williams could fashion if she were to lift a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title in New York where she hoisted her first crown 22 years ago.


In September 1999, a couple of weeks shy of her 18th birthday, Williams harnessed the home-town heroine pressure to dispatch the world number one Martina Hingis 6-3, 7-6 and announce herself on the Grand Slam stage.

Success at the US Open in 2021, at nearly 40, would be, quiet simply, Serenaesque.

The triumph would also draw her level with Margaret Court’s feats at the Grand Slam tournament venues in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York between 1960 and 1973.

On Tuesday in south-west London, where Williams has claimed seven of her 23 majors, she left the Centre Court in tears after abandoning her match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus.

The sixth seed appeared to twist her ankle in the fifth game of the tie and though she received treatment, she retired with the score at 3-3.


“I was heartbroken to have to withdraw after injuring my right leg,” said Williams.

“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 when I walked on - and off - the court meant the world to me.”

It was the second premature departure in a row after the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino twisted his knee while he was two sets to one up against the former champion Roger Federer.

Andy Murray, a two time winner of the men’s title, said: “Brutal for Serena Williams but Centre Court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there.”

Federer, seeking a record extending ninth-title, was in a post-match press conference when he heard that Williams had quit.

“Oh, my God, I can’t believe it,” said the 39-year-old Swiss. “It’s obviously terrible that it’s back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well.


"You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down.”

On Mannarino’s injury, Federer added: “It’s awful. It shows that one shot can change the outcome of a match, a season, or a career. He was the better player so I was a bit lucky.”

Mannarino, the world No 41, said: “I just slid down as it was really slippery. I heard a big crack and I knew straight away that I wouldn’t be able to do anything any more.”

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