Have we just witnessed the final act in the remarkable career of Serena Williams?
Was that what we think it was? Was that the painful end of Serena Williams’ story on Wimbledon’s Centre Court?
After the drama of an injured Adrian Mannarino pulling out of his epic match with Roger Federer half an hour earlier, now we were presented with a sight that had a distinct finality around it.
The slip that ended Mannarino’s efforts to see off Federer had occurred in almost precisely the same spot as Serena’s ankle injury, as the 23-time Grand Slam-winning legend stumbled in what appeared to be innocuous fashion, only for the severity of the injury to quickly become apparent.
Treatment off-court didn’t resolve the issue and while Williams did not want her Wimbledon story to end like this, her attempts to play on came to a tearful end as she slumped to the court that has witnessed so many of her greatest triumphs and had to admit the game was up.
Five years after she won her last major title on Centre Court and with Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles still tantalisingly out of reach, what many believe to be her best hope of equalling that record was snatch away as her body let her down once again.
We're heartbroken for you, Serena.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 29, 2021
We should not be surprised, as tennis players don’t tend to win Grand Slam titles at the age of 39, but this is not an ordinary tennis player.
This is Serena Williams, the icon who has transcended the game for most of her career and become a household name for those who barely know the rules of tennis.
Here is a sporting icon as big as Tiger Woods, as famous as Michael Jordan and who could lay claim to being the greatest female athlete of all-time.
Now, under a closed roof on the first Tuesday of Wimbledon, this champion who refuses to accept the sands of time have caught up with her, was finally hoisting the white flag.
It remains to be seen whether this was her final act at Wimbledon, but as she left the court with the tears flowing and thanked the crowd for giving her the send-off she merited, it certainly felt like that.
“She’s been the greatest player, so far that’s ever lived on the women side, and she deserves our respect and she’s earned our respect and she’s earned the right to play as long she wants to play,” 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert told Tennis365 last month.
“Can she win again? I don’t know. The women players are only getting better. There are some really impressive players out here now that we didn’t even know their names before the pandemic. And they’re not intimidated by playing Serena anymore.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 29, 2021
“Serena has to work twice more because of her age. She’s 39, she has to work, I think, a little harder on her fitness. In saying that, to see the passion and the commitment that she has had until her 39 has been very inspiring and kudos to her.”
Serena has done things we never thought could ever have been done. Serena is a force of nature, you can’t predict what she’s going to do. If she is going to win again, it will be at Wimbledon, but it is getting tougher and tougher for her.”
For a champion who doesn’t know how to admit defeat, limping out of Wimbledon would have hurt more than any defeat on the court.
Now Serena has to decide whether her golden legacy needs to be left as it is or whether she wants to carry on trying to defy all logic to win again.
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
Rafael Nadal ‘happy to be in Cincy’ as he finds out his path to possible glory at ATP Masters 1000 event
Rafael Nadal good to go in Cincinnati.
Nick Kyrgios ‘doesn’t care’ about records as he admits parents’ illness and fatigue are weighing him down
Nick Kyrgios not concerned about his winning streak coming to an end as he is more worried about his parents.
ATP Cincy draw: Daniil Medvedev and Nick Kyrgios could meet again, Dan Evans in line to face Stefanos Tsitsipas
This way for the draw of the 2022 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Simona Halep ‘stays strong mentally’ to hold off ‘super nice and future Grand Slam champion’ Coco Gauff
Simona Halep overcomes edgy second set to beat Coco Gauff.
WTA Cincinnati draw: Emma Raducanu to face Serena Williams in dream opening match
The Cincy draw has dished up a big one: Emma Raducanu vs Serena Williams
Dan Evans continues his dream run to reach Montreal semi-final
He will face Pablo Carreno Busta after the Spaniard defeated British qualifier Jack Draper in straight sets.
ATP Rankings: Casper Ruud threatens career-best ranking
Casper Ruud is on the brink of a career-best ranking.
Hobbled Nick Kyrgios lets rip on ball boys in Montreal
Quick serves and a quicker temper from Nick Kyrgios.
The WTA Tour should promote the stars they have, says former British No 1
Tennis has to play the cards it is dealt.
Toronto Masters: How to watch Coco Gauff vs Simona Halep
Coco Gauff’s clash with Simona Halep headlines the Toronto Masters last eight clashes.