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Serena Williams withdraws from French Open

hannahwilks in French Open 30 Sep 2020
Serena Williams (Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Serena Williams has pulled out of the French Open ahead of her second-round match with Tsvetana Pironkova.

Three-time French Open champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from the tournament, giving a walkover to her second-round opponent.

The French Open website confirmed the news on Wednesday morning when it showed a walkover for Tsvetana Pironkova into the third round.

Williams confirmed that the withdrawal was due to a left Achilles injury, saying she was ‘struggling to walk’.

She told press:

‘We realised it wasn’t the best for me to try to play today. Struggling to walk and that’s a sign that I should try to recover.’

Williams was due to play Pironkova, who pushed her to three sets in the quarterfinals of the US Open, as the second match on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day four of the tournament.

The American had Achilles injury concerns towards the end of her US Open campaign, which saw her reach the semifinals but fall to Victoria Azarenka in three sets.

Seeded sixth at Roland Garros, Williams did not play any clay-court matches coming into the tournament, withdrawing from the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome due to a left Achilles injury.

She had a hard-fought opening match against compatriot Kristie Ahn, with the first set alone lasting 74 minutes.

Williams’s quest for a twenty-fourth major title, which would tie Margaret Court’s all-time record, will now be on hold until 2021. The American, who already holds the Open Era record for most Grand Slam titles won, has not been able to win a major since returning from maternity leave in 2018 despite reaching four finals.

Her best result at a Grand Slam in 2020 remains her semifinal finish at the US Open. She fell in the third round of the Australian Open to Wang Qiang.

It is unclear whether Williams would have planned to play any more tournaments in 2020 anyway – the WTA Tour schedule currently lists just one more tournament scheduled after the French Open, the Asian swing having been cancelled entirely due to the global pandemic.

‘I think I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing and at least just two weeks of sitting down. After that two weeks I’ve been told I need to do a little training. I don’t know if I’ll be able to play another tournament this year.’

It is the second time in three years that Williams has withdrawn from the French Open mid-tournament – in 2018 she gave a walkover to Maria Sharapova in the fourth round.

But the American denied that the Achilles problem is something that will be a concern for years to come.

‘I feel like my body is willing, this is not a nagging injury, this is an acute injury… I feel my body is actually doing really well and I just ran into bad timing and bad luck really in New York.’

Williams’s withdrawal will boost the chances of a deep run for both Azarenka, who was projected to meet Williams in the fourth round, and Elina Svitolina, who was the other top seed in her quarter.

Simona Halep, the 2018 champion and tournament favourite, will also not have to go through a potential semifinal clash with Williams to reach the final.

Svitolina, Azarenka and Halep are all due to play their second-round matches on Wednesday as the tournament moves on.