Serena Williams, five times a Wimbledon champion and the No.1 seed for The Championships 2014, was in considerable distress after withdrawing from her second doubles match with her sister Venus at 0-3 down against the Swiss-German combination of Stefanie Voegele and Kristina Barrois. She later revealed in a statement that she was suffering from a viral illness.
She had appeared considerably out of sorts during the warm-up for the match on No.1 Court. She missed two shots completely and could not catch balls thrown to her by the ball boys. The tournament doctor was called to courtside and Serena was seen to be in tears. Eventually deciding to go ahead with the match, on her turn to serve, the woman with the best serving record in the game was unsteady on her feet and double-faulted four times in succession to be broken to love, at which the umpire, Kader Nouoni, called a halt to the match.
In a statement issued later Serena said, “I am heartbroken I’m not able to continue in the tournament. I thought I could rally this morning because I really wanted to compete but this bug just got the best of me.”
Serena, 32, has won five Wimbledon doubles titles with Venus, the last of them two years ago but after an outstanding season in 2013 she has struggled this year and suffered an early exit from the French Open last month.
Serena came back to tennis after suffering a pulmonary embolism in 2011 after an infection caused by cutting her foot on broken glass and reclaimed the world No.1 ranking last year after winning 11 tournaments. But she has failed to reach even the quarter-finals of the three Grand Slams so far this year and on Saturday fell to a shock Wimbledon defeat by Alize Cornet in the third round.
Afterwards her coach Patrick Mouratoglou said “I don’t think it is anything to do with age or anything physical. I just think it’s a moment she’s at in her career. She doesn’t have her usual mindset for different reasons. It has happened to other champions in the past but I definitely think she can bounce back. She is fit, she is working hard, her tennis is there, just her competitiveness is not as high as it usually is.”
“She is not finding a way to be as efficient mentally as she usually is. The fact that she has lost more in the first six months of this year than in the last two years affects her because she is human. But she’s going to bounce back. I know her tennis is there and champions do this.”
Venus Williams said later, “Unfortunately Serena has been feeling unwell for the past few days and she just couldn’t play to her potential today. I’m really proud of her for trying because we just love playing doubles together. We are looking forward to coming back to Wimbledon next year.”
Tracy Austin called the incident “the strangest 15 minutes I’ve seen on a tennis court without a doubt.”
Serena’s half-sister, Isha Price, meanwhile said Serena had been “sad and emotional” after the Cornet defeat.
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