There are times in tennis where there are simply no words, even for all of the journalists that cover the sport. Few players have left fans more frequently breathless in almost three decades on tour than Serena Williams, who made a regal entrance into her campaign for a 24th Grand Slam singles title and began her first round in authoritative fashion against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
She left fans in a different kind of hush when, overcome by an injury that took her off Centre Court for a medical timeout, the former No. 1 was forced to retire in tears at 3-3, just six games into the opening set.
"I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg," Serena said in a statement. "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."
The specter of Margaret Court’s all-time record—one that looms larger or smaller, depending on the amount of stock you put in it—has surely been on already-GOAT’s mind. It is the one mountain this sport’s pioneer has yet to climb, and it is the challenge that almost certainly brought her back from maternity leave after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in 2017.
Defeats in four major finals since her 2018 return (all in straight sets) have hardly dampened her determination, though as she stands on the edge of a 40th birthday, the question of how many more opportunities she will have to achieve this milestone will only grow bigger.