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Serena Williams pulls out of French Open with injury, may skip rest of season

Tennis star Serena Williams leaves a news conference in Paris.
Tennis star Serena Williams leaves a news conference Wednesday in which she announced her withdrawal from the French Open because of an injured Achilles tendon.
(Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press)

Saying she is “struggling to walk,” tennis star Serena Williams ended her latest bid for a 24th Grand Slam title, withdrawing from the French Open before her second-round match Wednesday because of an injured Achilles tendon.

Williams said it was “more than likely” that she would not play another tournament in 2020.

The 39-year-old American hurt herself during her semifinal loss at the U.S. Open three weeks ago, which she called “bad timing” and “bad luck,” and went to lengths to make clear she didn’t think this was any sign that she can’t continue to pursue trophies in the future.

Williams said she hadn’t had “enough time to properly heal” and needed “four to six weeks of sitting, doing nothing.”

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The sudden announcement came about an hour before she was supposed to head out onto Court Philippe Chatrier to face Tsvetana Pironkova.

Williams said she tried warming up for the match but knew she wouldn’t be able to compete. She spoke to coach Patrick Mouratoglou, and “we kind of both thought about it and we decided it wasn’t the best for me to try and play today,” she said.

If time heals all, then the clock began to tick effectively and appropriately Friday night for Serena Williams and Indian Wells.

This is Williams’ earliest exit at any Grand Slam tournament since a second-round loss in Paris in 2014.

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She also pulled out of the 2018 French Open prior to what would have been a fourth-round match against Russian rival Maria Sharapova, citing a pulled muscle in her chest. It was Williams’ first major tournament back on tour after having a baby.

She went on to reach the finals at four of the next six Slams, losing each time and falling short in her attempt to equal Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam title tally.

“I love playing tennis, obviously. I love competing. And I love being out here. It’s my job, been my job. And I’m pretty good at it still,” Williams said. “So until I feel like I’m not good at it — then I’ll be like, ‘Oh, OK.’ And I’m so close to some things. I just feel like I’m almost there, so I think that’s what keeps me going.”

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Earlier this month, in New York, Williams made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Open before bowing out 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 against eventual runner-up Victoria Azarenka.

It was in the third set of that match that Williams stretched her Achilles tendon during a point and leaned over, clutching at her lower left leg and asking for a trainer. She took a medical timeout to have her foot taped and continued to play but was unable to pull off a win.

“I was able to get it somewhat better, but just looking long-term: In this tournament, will I be able to get through on enough matches? And so for me, I don’t think I could,” Williams said Wednesday. “And struggling to walk, so that’s kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”


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