“I think she started playing well right away, with her serve, with her shots, being very dominating,” Muguruza said. “I had to adapt a little bit my position in the court, the way I was hitting. And it took me a few games to kind of do it. Once I did it, I felt much more comfortable to be able to release my tennis.”
Williams started the seventh game with an off-balance double fault into the net and began hitting first serves consistently below 100 miles per hour. She double faulted again later in the game and barely moved as Muguruza hit a forehand winner to go ahead, 4-3.
Williams then walked very slowly to her chair and looked frustrated on the first point of the next game, taking a huge, angry cut at a forehand return that she hit into the net.
“At the end of the first set, I felt maybe she wasn’t feeling well, yeah,” Muguruza said.
Williams soon provided confirmation. After losing the set, she called for a trainer and was eventually surrounded by the tour supervisor Donna Kelso, the trainer Paige Kensrue and a tournament physician. Though Kensrue arrived on court with a blood-pressure cuff, she did not take a reading on Williams and no official medical timeout was taken.
After extended discussion, Williams returned to the court to start the second set but did not win another point as Muguruza held serve at love.
One of Williams’s signatures is that after the first game of a set, she does not change ends on the chair umpire’s side of the net, crossing over on the opposite side without approaching her own seat. But she changed her routine this time, heading straight for her chair and then retiring.
It was only Williams’s third midmatch retirement since 2009. Her next scheduled event is the Miami Open later this month.
“I think Serena always has the confidence,” Rinaldi said. “Look at her record coming back from having baby Olympia: two finals of Grand Slams. I think she knows what she is capable of. Self-belief, I don’t think that’s an issue. Obviously today was a little bit of a setback, but I think since she came back that she has gotten better and better and stronger.”