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Serena Williams struggled against Harmony Tan in her first round match at Wimbledon. Image Credit: AFP

Serena Williams may be giving serious thought to retiring from tennis following her first round exit at Wimbledon during which she looked and played like a shadow of her former self.

The 40-year-old American - now ranked 1,204th in the world - needed to request a wildcard to enter the draw. She lost to world number 115 Harmony Tan of France on Centre Court – the same venue where she tore her hamstring exactly a year ago. She was awarded a fine reception by the crowd at SW19 yesterday but ultimately could not make a winning return in front of them.

Rusty and slow

Granted, she has been out for so long that it is understandable she would be a little rusty and slow around the court. But, if we are being honest, the 23-time Grand Slam champion has looked out of shape for some time now. She has not lost her skill but her physical abilities appear to be diminishing.

To play tennis at the very highest level you need stamina and judging by what I saw of her last night against Tan, I don’t think she has it in her anymore. This could be due to her injury and perhaps she was not pushing herself as hard as she once would in fear of hurting herself again. But there were times during the match where she appeared to give up chasing what looked to be easy returns.

When she gets to shots she more often than not makes them winning returns but the problem is she is not getting to enough them now.

Her success has been based on her extraordinary ability and determination but it seems she is losing the latter. Tan was toying with her knowing she was unable to get to the net to return her heavily sliced drop shots. The first couple of times was fun but it soon became painful to watch.

Williams has devoted her life to the sport which in turn has given her everything she could have dreamed of. But she will know deep down if the time has come to hang up her racquet. Fortunately with the advancement in sports medicine, nutrition and training, players can keep going for a lot longer than they used to be able to. A couple of decades ago they were retiring in their 30s but now they can have longer careers.

Does she still love the game?

But the question is, why should Williams keep going? Sure, she has Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles in her sights and would love to draw level with her. But I don’t think that this is a strong enough reason. Look at Roger Federer as an example. He always says he wishes to continue playing because he loves the game and still gets a buzz from playing. He isn’t playing for the sake of attaining more titles - but you get the distinct impression that Williams is.

She needs to begin to start enjoying her tennis now that she is back from injury and if she picks up another title along the way she should just count that as a bonus. It should not be the be all and end all for her. The US Open in August-September could be the ideal tournament for her to call it a day.