WASHINGTON, June 4, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
Shortly before she was due to face No. 28 seed Maria Sharapova in the fourth round of the French Open Monday afternoon, Serena Williams pulled out of Roland Garros with an arm injury.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams cited an issue with her right pectoral muscle as the reason she decided to withdraw during an impromptu press conference inside Stade Roland Garros. It was the first time she has ever withdrawn in the midst of a Grand Slam because of an injury.
“I unfortunately have been having some issues with my pec (pectoral) muscle,” said the 36-year-old Williams. “Right now, I can’t actually serve, so it’s hard to play. I can’t physically serve.”
Williams, who was making her first appearance in a major since winning the 2017 Australian Open following the birth of her daughter last September, had won each of her first three singles matches against No. 70 Kristyna Pliskova, No. 17 seed Ashleigh Barty and No. 11 seed Julia Goerges despite playing no clay-court warm-up tournaments. Instead, she was honing her game and working on her fitness at her coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy in southern France. By all appearances, the unseeded Williams, who arrived at this year’s Roland Garros ranked 453rd – and made a big splash on court with her black “super-hero” bodysuit apparel by Nike – seemed to be getting stronger with each round. She said she was looking forward to renewing her rivalry with Sharapova, whom she owns a 19-2 career head-to-head record. Certainly there was a lot of anticipation among fans and media leading up to the Williams-Sharapova match today.
“It’s very difficult because I love playing Maria; it’s a match I always get up for. Her game matches so well against mine,” said Williams, who maintained her composure throughout her press conference while also articulating her sense of frustration over not being able to continue her quest for a 24th Grand Slam singles title at this year’s French Open.
According to Williams, her pectoral injury first surfaced on Saturday during her third-round win over Goerges. Then, she tried to strap her shoulder to protect the muscle during her three-set doubles defeat with her sister Venus on Sunday.
“It didn’t start before I got here,” said Williams, who will get an MRI on Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury. “It was really painful and I didn’t know what it was.”
During an interview with Tennis Channel following Williams’s press conference, Mouratoglou said it was too soon to determine whether Williams would be healthy in time to play Wimbledon, which begins in four weeks.
“I’m beyond disappointed. I gave up so much – time with my daughter, time with my family,” said Williams. “I put everything on the court all for this moment. So, it’s really difficult to be in the situation. (But) I try to think positive and think of the bigger picture, the next events and the rest of the year.”