The Real Reason Serena Williams Withdrew From Wimbledon

Serena Williams is one of the most decorated tennis players in the world, having won a whopping 23 Grand Slam singles titles throughout her long-running career (via Bleacher Report). Although Williams hasn't won a Grand Slam title since she defeated her sister, Venus Williams, in the Australian Open in 2017, fans of the tennis phenom were excited to watch her continue her crusade to winning her 24th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon this year, which would tie tennis legend Margaret Court's record-breaking 24 titles.

In a pre-Wimbledon press conference, Williams revealed that while she was excited to compete in this year's big tournament, she'd be sitting out from the 2021 Olympics, which take place in Tokyo, Japan starting July 23 (via TODAY). "There's a lot of reasons that I made my Olympic decision. I don't really want to — I don't feel like going into them today. Maybe another day. Sorry," she told reporters, adding, "I have not thought about it. In the past, it's been a wonderful place for me," when asked what it'd be like to sit out from the games this year. "I really haven't thought about it, so I'm going to keep not thinking about it."

Unfortunately, Williams will now be sitting out of Wimbledon as well, as she retired from her first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich just 34 minutes into her first set on June 29 (via The New York Times).

Serena Williams took to Instagram to reveal why she tearfully walked off the court

In a heartbreaking Instagram post on June 29, Serena Williams revealed the real reason why she retired from the court during her first set against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, writing, "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."

In a video clip of Williams' match, you can see that the legendary tennis player falls to the ground while volleying against Sasnovich. Williams had slipped on the grass court earlier due to the rainy weather conditions, and she wasn't the only athlete to slip and injure themselves during their match. Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori, John Isner, Bianca Andreescu, and more also took nasty tumbles during their matches, forcing multiple athletes to withdraw from the tournament (via Daily Mail).

"There has been a high number of withdrawals at the Championships today and we sympathize with all the players affected," Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis said. "The withdrawals have occurred for a variety of reasons, but there have been some suggestion that the court surface is to blame. We have no reason to think this is the case."

Fans issued words of support to Serena Williams after her Wimbledon withdrawal

Fans from all over took to social media to show their support for Serena Williams after her first-round withdrawal. "There is no athlete I root harder for than Serena Williams. NO ONE. So this was shocking and heartbreaking to watch. She's OUT of #Wimbledon in the first round. Just happened. Tried to fight through an injury, in tears, but couldn't continue," one Twitter user wrote, to which another replied, "I think the dangerous conditions that they are playing under (wet grass) is more of a reason to consider forming a player's association. This was avoidable."

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open earlier in June after citing mental health reasons as the reason for her withdrawal (via CNN), left a string of heart emojis on Williams' Instagram post about retiring from this year's Wimbledon. Williams famously defended 23-year-old Osaka after she received backlash for withdrawing from the event, telling reporters at a press conference, "The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like. Like I said, I've been in those positions."

Organizers maintained there's nothing wrong with the grass

According to CNN, following high-profile, mid-play injuries to both Serena Williams and Adrian Mannarino, in quick succession, more questions are being raised about the suitability of the grass. Mannarino, similar to Williams, bowed out after injuring his knee following a gnarly slip during his fourth set against Roger Federer. In fact, after Williams left the court, two-time Wimbledon champ Andy Murray notably tweeted, "Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy ... Not easy to move out there." He played on the main court earlier in the week. Likewise, Federer told reporters during a press conference, "It feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof, I don't know if it's a gut feel." 

The celebrated athlete added, "You do have to move very, very carefully out there, and if you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down." However, Federer also admitted it didn't feel too different to him personally, but acknowledged that he was proceeding with caution regardless. The All England Lawn Tennis Club released a statement in response to the many injury reports, noting simply, "The preparation of the grass courts has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years." They also advised each court is checked extensively before matches commence, but blamed very wet weather — the worst in a decade! — for any "additional moisture" on the grass.