American teenager Coco Gauff said she could not watch the moment her idol Serena Williams was forced to retire from her first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday because of injury.
Tennis great Williams was bidding for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles crown, but her dreams were ended after an ankle injury forced her retirement early in a first-round match against unseeded Belarussian Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
The seven-time singles’ winner at the All England Club slipped in the sixth game and left the Centre Court for treatment.
She returned 10 minutes later but after getting emotional at the reception afforded to her by the crowd, the pain was evident on Williams’ face as she tried to serve.
After the best efforts of the 39-year-old, she had to call it quits.
A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams)
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Gauff, 17, was in the gym when Williams retired in heart-breaking fashion and she expressed her sadness at seeing her idol withdraw.
“It was not easy to watch. Actually I turned away. I was in the gym actually stretching. I turned away because stuff like that makes me, like, really emotional,” Gauff said after winning her first-round match against Britain’s Fran Jones.
“I wish that hopefully she can have a speedy recovery. You could tell she was really emotional. Nobody ever wants to retire, but especially at a Grand Slam, a place as special as Wimbledon after waiting two years to come back.”
A post shared by Coco Gauff (@cocogauff)
Gauff made a sensational impact on her Wimbledon debut in 2019 when, as a 15-year-old qualifier, she reached the last 16 with a win over former champion Venus Williams.
Now she is the 20th seed having reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the French Open.
The teenager admitted being nervous about her opening match back at the scene of her major breakthrough, but stayed calm to win 7-5 6-4 against the world No 211 who became a tennis professional despite a rare genetic condition which left her with only seven toes, and a finger missing on each hand.
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Gauff said she was full of admiration for 20-year-old Jones and her battle against adversity to play in the main draw at Wimbledon for the first time.
“Her story is incredible. I guess from people telling her that she couldn’t play tennis or let alone go pro or make it this far. The fact that she’s here, giving it her all, is something I really respect as an athlete,” Gauff said.
Meet the inspirational Fran Jones#Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/uW8Mrko5SQ
Jones insisted this defeat will boost her belief before attempting to qualify for the US Open.
“Today was a great experience but bittersweet because I created chances and at the end of the day I am the one going home,” she admitted.
“I will keep building. I just competed with someone who made the quarters of Roland Garros, is 23 in the world, with multiple WTA titles and I felt comfortable on the court.
“I know sooner or later I will find myself in a position where I don’t need a wildcard but at the moment I am at the beginning of the construction of my house which is being built so to speak… that was an analogy just to clarify!”
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