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PARIS, Sept 30 — Serena Williams withdrew from the French Open today ahead of her second round match with an Achilles injury, as the American’s bid for a 24th Grand Slam title suffered another blow.
The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, had arrived in Paris carrying the injury that prompted her to skip the Rome tune-up event.
“The Achilles didn’t have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams, who admitted last week she was not fully fit after her run to the semi-finals in New York.
“I’m struggling to walk, so that’s kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”
The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020, leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court’s all-time majors record.
“I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing,” she said. “It’s more than likely that I won’t play another tournament this year.”
Her decision to pull out handed Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova a walkover and left Williams searching for a first major since the last of her 23 titles at Melbourne in 2017.
“I always give 100 per cent, everyone knows that. Maybe even more than 100 if that’s possible. I take solace in that,” she told reporters.
“I think the Achilles is a real injury that you don’t want to play with because that is not good if it gets worse.”
Rafael Nadal later today looks to build on a promising start to his quest to match Roger Federer’s 20 Slam titles when he plays American outsider Mackenzie McDonald.
Top seed and women’s favourite Simona Halep also puts her 15-match winning streak on the line as she targets another run at a second French Open crown in three years.
Nadal needs one more major to pull level with long-time rival Federer and owns an astonishing 94-2 record in Paris going back to his triumph on debut in 2005.
The Spaniard showed little trouble in handling the heavier conditions in his opening win over Egor Gerasimov at a tournament postponed four months by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the 34-year-old is wary of an untimely slip-up having made serene progress on his return to action in Rome before running aground in the quarter-finals.
Nadal on his guard
“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said 12-time French Open winner Nadal, who touched down in Paris without a clay title to his name for the first time.
“I said in Rome when I played the first two matches well, I said, ‘Okay, don’t believe things are going to be like this.’
“I know how difficult are the comebacks. I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult. It’s normal, some up and downs.”
A first-time opponent again awaits Nadal in the 236th-ranked McDonald, whose lone tour win this season came against Yusutaka Uchiyama at Delray Beach in February.
Elina Svitolina overcame Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 to advance to a third round clash against Russian 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.
The Ukrainian third seed is coming off a 15th WTA title at Strasbourg last week and is a two-time quarter-finalist at Roland Garros.
“In the end when I was playing really good, I was playing aggressive, I was going for my shots,” said Svitolina, briefly taken aback by a sonic boom caused by a French fighter jet.
“I was a bit worried because I thought something bad happened.”
The military said the plane had been scrambled to go to the aid of another aircraft that had lost radio contact, and was authorised to travel at supersonic speed.
With women’s defending champion Ashleigh Barty skipping the event over Covid-19 concerns, world number two Halep appears well set for a tilt at a third major.
She battles fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu on Court Suzanne Lenglen, having been spared the grim weather by playing under the new retractable roof in her opener.
Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open winner, followed up his demolition of Andy Murray with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 defeat of Germany’s Dominik Koepfer.
US Open champion Dominic Thiem plays American qualifier Jack Sock in the second round while Alexander Zverev goes up against home hope Pierre-Hugues Herbert. — AFP