Serena stumbles

With another mixed bag of weather on the cards, slippery conditions proved the downfall of players at Wimbledon where the most high-profile casualty was Serena Williams, who stumbled on Centre Court and made her exit in tears, leaving Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus the winner at 3 games all.

I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg. 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 today when I walked on – and off – the court meant the world to me. Serena Williams

The 7-time Wimbledon champion arrived with heavy strapping on her right leg and seemed unsteady on her feet as she slipped more than once on the lush grass.

Leading the Belarusian by a break in the first set at 3-1, serving at 15-15, Williams slipped briefly at the back of the court and while she never fell to the ground, the American requested the physio after losing serve, and received an off-court medical timeout.

After the 10-minute break, she returned to the court and, in a desperate attempt to continue, tears began to pour down her face.

Sasnovich held serve in the 6th game to level at 3-3, but it all ended shortly afterwards when Williams lost her footing at the baseline again at 15-15 on her serve, falling heavily and, after getting to her feet, she decided to retire.

She received a standing ovation from the Centre Court crowd as she hobbled off in tears.

Seeded 6th in the women’s draw, Williams was chasing Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slam singles titles but, at the age of 39, her opportunities are diminishing.

The American has faced her share of bad luck, having stepped on a glass in a Munich bar and needing 18 stitches some years ago, which derailed her career for a while.

She then suffered a pulmonary embolism in 2011 that brought her near to death and, in 2018, after she had given birth, she faced another life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

Since winning the Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant, Williams has been poised to equal Court’s record but since returning for the 2018 French Open, 4 finals and 12 majors later, the quest remains elusive.

Williams held a 19-0 first round winning record at Wimbledon going into the match, and had only retired once before in a Grand Slam, dating back to her first against Virginia Ruano Pascual in the third round of Wimbledon in 1998.

The American did not attend the post-match press conference after the match, opting instead to issue a statement to the media: “I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg. 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 today when I walked on – and off – the court meant the world to me.”

Aliaksandra Sasnovich was left disappointed at the premature ending to her match against Serena Williams at Wimbledon

© AELTC - Pool/Getty Images

Sasnovich was left disappointed at the premature end to the match.

“It was so nice of an atmosphere out here and it was my first time playing on Centre Court,” she said on court. “I’m so sad for Serena.

“She’s a great champion. It happens sometimes in tennis, but [I’m wishing] all the best for her for the best recovery.”

Later Sasnovich expanded her thoughts to reporters.

“It’s very sad for me, honestly, when your opponent feels bad. She’s a great champion, and it’s sad story,” she said. “I was happy to play against her. She’s a great champion. She has a lot of Slams.

“It was a dream of my dad. He dreamed for eight years in a row, he just wrote me before the match, that I would play with Serena in Wimbledon, and it happened.”

A former World No 30 who is now ranked 100, the Belarusian has faced a Top 10 seed in the first round in each of her last three Wimbledon appearances.

In 2018 she upset 2-time champion No 8 seed Petra Kvitova and went all the way to the round of 16 while, in 2019, she lost to eventual champion and No 7 seed Simona Halep.

“I could say that grass is one of my favourite surfaces, because it’s match very good with my style. I can serve like slice, I can move very well, my legs are really on a good level, like I’m moving fast,” Sasnovich said.

“Of course I wanted to play the full match, but it’s tennis. It’s happens. It’s injury.

“I was ready to play 100% today. I was ready mentally. I was ready strategically. I was ready physically, of course. I was thinking before the match just go and enjoy the tennis, enjoy the atmosphere.”

Sasnovich advances to face either Nao Hibino from Japan or American Bernarda Pera, whose match was suspended ahead of the third set due to darkness after they split sets at 6-1 5-7 on Tuesday.

Serena Williams could not maintain her footing on Centre Court and stumbled out of The Championships

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Meanwhile, there has been criticism of the conditions of Centre Court this year after Roger Federer’s opponent, Adrian Mannarino also slipped and injured his right knee in the final exchanges of the fourth set causing the Frenchman to retire from the enthralling match on Tuesday.

“I think I just sprained my knee,” Mannarino said in his post-match press conference. “A basic grass court injury that happened to me before in the past 10 years when I was playing qualies 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.

“I’m not used to playing on Wimbledon Centre Court. It’s tough for me to compare especially playing last week in Spain where the weather was really dry and the courts were not slippery at all.

Federer was shocked: “This is obviously terrible that it’s back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well,” he said. “Oh, my God, I can’t believe it.

“I do feel 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.”

Andy Murray, who played on Centre on Monday night against Nikoloz Basilashvili, joined the list of players questioning the surface, prompting Wimbledon to issue a statement: “The preparation of the grass courts has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years.

“Each grass court is checked by the Grand Slam Supervisors, Referee’s Office and Grounds team ahead of play commencing, and on both days of the Fortnight they have been happy with the conditions and cleared the courts for play.

“The weather conditions on the opening two days have been the wettest we have experienced in almost a decade, which has required the roof to be closed on Centre Court and No 1 Court for long periods. This is at a time when the grass plant is at its most lush and green, which does result in additional moisture on what is a natural surface.

“With each match that is played, the courts will continue to firm up.

“The Grounds team and Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) take hardness readings every morning in order to ensure that the courts have the right level of moisture and are playing consistently.

“Our long-serving Grounds team have experienced nearly every combination of weather conditions possible. They keep abreast of and utilise the latest grass court technologies, prepare for every weather eventuality and react to the current conditions on a daily basis.

“We will continue to monitor these readings and adjust our care plan for the grass appropriately.”

There has been some criticism of the condition of Centre Court this year

© AELTC/Bob Martin - Pool/Getty Images



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