The questions now, after that most painful of ironies, are whether we will see Serena Williams playing on Centre Court again and is the surface too dangerous?
Arguments around the latter accumulated with some speed on one of the more dramatic evenings at Wimbledon, with Williams and Adrian Mannarino hobbling away from these Championships after slips in the same spot barely an hour apart.
Both were going well; both lost footing on a greasy surface under a closed roof.
That could possibly be put down to the natural perils of tennis on lawns on wet Tuesdays, and maybe that is fair enough, but to lose one match to injury is unfortunate. Is two a trifle careless?
There will be room within that debate for sensible examination of how the court ventilates and retains moisture after the closing of its roof, and no doubt there will be some hyperventilation, too. But in the more immediate term the prime thought is that the most compelling player in tennis is out with a rolled ankle.
‘I was heartbroken to have to withdraw,’ she said in a brief statement after her slip at 3-1 up in the first set led to her withdrawal two games later. ‘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.’
The incident itself appeared innocuous. She was going well, even with heavy strapping around her right thigh. For an athlete pushing 40, those aches and pulls and tapings are normal enough, but she had a degree of control against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, the world No 100.
She had started pummelling a few winners, and was a break up at 3-1 after a quite delightful backhand arrowed from corner to the other. But at 0-15 on her serve, she took a reverse step towards the Royal Box in readiness for a routine backhand and then her right foot buckled.
She didn’t hit the deck, she didn’t scream, but from there she was limping. A little and then a lot.
After being broken back following a few uncommitted, cautious serves, she left the court for treatment for five minutes. Upon the resumption, she looked close to tears and then played through a handful of points to 3-3, 15-15.
Serena Williams withdraws in first set vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich with apparent ankle injury pic.twitter.com/tKlNyAWYWI— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 29, 2021
A short return came to Williams, but her foot went under her weight again, and with it she went down to her knees. Crying, she staggered to Sasnovich at the net and called the whole thing off.
In the aftermath, the viewpoints came in. Andy Murray had his say on Twitter, writing: ‘Brutal for Serena Williams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move.’
Roger Federer, who had been tied at two sets apiece with Mannarino, seconded that, with some talk about the changing properties of the grass amid the air-conditioning thrown in. A day earlier Novak Djokovic had also lost his footing, and we’ll likely all be experts and familiar with the names of the ground staff in a few hours.
Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there.— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) June 29, 2021
The All England Club defended their set-up, saying: ‘The preparation of the courts has been to the same meticulous standard as in previous years. The weather has been the wettest we have experienced in almost a decade. This is at a time when the grass is at its most lush and green, which does result in additional moisture.’
The deeper thoughts of Williams could take longer to emerge. Beyond her statement she did not speak to the media, but it is fair to wonder how she feels about her future.
She has been stuck on 23 Slams for more than four years now, and that one extra she needs to tie Margaret Court’s record on 24 is getting no easier to obtain. For a serial winner, her mounting losses, including four straight major finals, will weigh heavily, and her age – 40 in September - is making the odds against her ever longer.
For these championships she was ranked sixth, but as many as 20 women are considered contenders for the title.
Time was that Williams, the seven-time champion, was the only name worth backing, but for how long will she be able to fight the younger and more nimble?
‘I’m so sorry for Serena,’ said Sasnovich. ‘She’s a great champion.’
Discussing the court, the Belarusian, who became the lowest ranked player to beat Williams at Wimbledon, added: ‘When she hit the angles, I couldn't run because it was so slippery.
'But it's same for everyone.’
So it would seem. But it wasn’t just anyone who slipped out of the tournament on Tuesday.