Serena Williams retires IN TEARS after injury forces her out in first round at Wimbledon (VIDEO)
Williams, 39, winner of seven Wimbledon championships in her legendary career, began her match with the world's 100th-ranked player, Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, with large strapping on her right thigh.
By the fifth game it was clear that she was being bothered by an injury to her leg when she slipped, and when she once again tumbled to grass in the seventh game of the first set - and struggled to regain her feet - it was clear that her dreams of a first Wimbledon trophy since 2016 were in tatters.
Williams, who was the sixth seed entering the championship, looked to have aggravated her injury when she moved awkwardly on the baseline before firing a forehand shot at Sasnovich.
A clearly emotional Williams had tears in her eyes as she thanked the fans in London, many of whom had been vocally cheering for the American to overcome her injury and progress further in the tournament.
Fans at Center Court soon rose to their feet to pay tribute to the tennis icon who waved back as she mournfully exited the court, with questions soon being raised if Williams - who turns 40 in September - will be back at SW19 next summer.
Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there.— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) June 29, 2021
Williams has been chasing a 24th Grand Slam for some time and counts Wimbledon as one of her most successful hunting grounds. She reached the final in 2019 before losing to Simona Halep - also finishing second to Angelique Kerber the year prior.
She has now lost four major finals since returning to the sport after having a baby three years ago.
"I'm so sad for Serena. She is a great champion," Sasnovich, who moves into the next round, said afterwards.
"It happens sometimes in tennis, but all the best to her."Also on rt.com No go for Tokyo: Serena Williams announces she WILL MISS Olympics this summer