London, June 30: Serena Williams was left "heartbroken" after being forced to retire hurt in her first-round match at Wimbledon as the American great's quest for a record-equalling grand slam title continues.
Williams - seeking a historic 24th slam crown - was in tears after succumbing to an ankle injury during the early stages of Tuesday's clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich at SW19.
Stuck on 23 slams since 2017, Williams hurt her ankle in the fifth game and the 39-year-old eventually called a halt to proceedings with the match level at 3-3 on Centre Court.
"I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg," seven-time Wimbledon champion Williams wrote via Instagram following a possible SW19 farewell.
"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."
Williams had arrived in London amid high expectations in pursuit of matching Margaret Court's record of 24 slams.
Veteran Williams, who lost in the French Open fourth round, has won seven Wimbledon titles (level with Steffi Graf) - only Martina Navratilova has more in the Open Era (nine).
Williams has been a Wimbledon runner-up in 2018 and 2019. Chris Evert is the only player in the Open Era to have lost three consecutive Wimbledon finals (between 1978 and 1980).
She was looking to become only the second woman to win 100 Wimbledon singles matches (currently 98), alongside Navratilova (120), while Williams had been hoping to become the first woman to reach 100-plus wins in two different majors (106 wins at the US Open).