After 23 Grand Slam titles, 79 major appearances, and 24 seasons on the WTA tour, the uncomfortable truth is that Serena Williams’ reign as the most dominant force in sports is finally drawing to a close.
On Tuesday, ESPN reports that the Compton, Calif., native was forced to retire from her first-round match at Wimbledon due to an apparent leg injury. Up 3-1 in the first set, the seven-time Wimbledon champ slipped on the grass and, following a medical timeout in which she received treatment, was unfortunately unable to resume playing.
What made the injury particularly devastating is that it was widely assumed that this was her last run at the famed tournament. At 39 years old, the wear and tear of such a prolonged reign has clearly impacted her ability to continue playing at an elite level. As she arrived at Centre Court, both of her ankles and right thigh were heavily taped. While she was unable to play through the leg injury that she suffered, nothing brought more anguish to onlookers than her tearful exit—and the realization that this could be the last time we see Serena at Wimbledon, let alone on a professional tennis court.
Williams was the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019, but hasn’t won a major since 2017. There was no Wimbledon in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am so sad for Serena,” her opponent Aliaksandra Sasnovich told the crowd after the match. “She’s a great champion, but this happens sometimes in tennis. I wish all the best for her, and a good recovery.”
Williams declined to speak to reporters after the match, and instead made the following statement on Instagram:
“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.”
Let us hope and pray this isn’t the end to such a magnificent tennis career because a groundbreaking player of Williams’ stature deserves to go out on top.