PARIS (AFP) – Serena Williams announced her shock withdrawal from the French Open yesterday with injury just minutes before her scheduled fourth-round clash against long-time rival Maria Sharapova.
The 36-year-old said she had suffered a pectoral muscle injury in her third-round win over Julia Goerges and “can’t serve at all”.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion added that she would stay in Paris for scans on the injury to find out how long she will be out of action.
She was unable to say whether or not she would be fit for Wimbledon which gets underway in four weeks’ time.
“I’m beyond disappointed,” added three-time Roland Garros champion Williams who was playing in her first Grand Slam since winning the 2017 Australian Open.
She was also playing just her third tournament of the year after giving birth to daughter Olympia in September.
“I gave up so much from time with my daughter and time with my family all for this moment. So it’s really difficult to be in this situation.”
The shock withdrawal came just minutes before she was due on Court Philippe Chatrier to face bitter rival Sharapova.
Williams has not lost to the Russian since 2004, winning the last 18 matches.
It had been the most eagerly-awaited match of the tournament, coming just two days after Williams had blasted Sharapova’s autobiography for being “100 percent hearsay” when it came to references about her.
Sharapova, the champion in Paris in 2012 and 2014, goes on to play a first quarter-final at the Slams since losing to Williams at the same stage at the 2016 Australian Open.
It was in Melbourne that Sharapova tested positive for meldonium after which she served a 15-month doping ban.
She will face either 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza or Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine for a semi-final place.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal moved a step closer to an incredible 11th French Open title yesterday by seeing off German Maximilian Marterer in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals. The world number one’s 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) victory over the world number 70 saw him equal the record of 12 last-eight appearances at Roland Garros, which was set by Novak Djokovic the day before.
It is the 35th time the Spaniard, who turned 32 on Sunday, has made the quarters of a Grand Slam tournament.
Top seed Nadal is now on his own in third on the all-time list for most match wins at Grand Slam events with 234 victories.
Nadal will face Argentinian Diego Schwartzman for a semi-final spot, after the 11th seed staged a thrilling comeback to down sixth seed Kevin Anderson.
Schwartzman staged a thrilling comeback from two sets down to stun sixth seed Anderson and reach the French Open quarter-finals for the first time.
The 11th seed was totally outplayed in the first two sets, but twice broke Anderson when the South African was serving for the match en route to a 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/0), 6-2 victory.
The 25-year-old, who also reached the quarter-finals at last year’s US Open, will face either 10-time champion Rafael Nadal or German Maximilian Marterer for a last-four place.
World number seven Anderson, who was looking to become the first South African man to make the last eight since Cliff Drysdale 51 years ago, has now lost in the fourth round at Roland Garros on four occasions.