Serena Williams has shocked fans by pulling out of the French Open tennis tournament shortly before she was due to face Maria Sharapova.
The 36-year-old had breezed through the early rounds of her first grand slam tournament since giving birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia last September (17), to set up a hotly anticipated fourth round clash with the Russian, who returned to tennis last year after a drugs ban, on Monday (4Jun18).
However, shortly before she was due on court in Paris Serena withdrew from the match, and told a press conference she was suffering from a pectoral muscle injury that left her unable to serve.
“Unfortunately I’m having some issues with my pec muscle. Right now I can’t actually serve so it’s kind of hard to play,” she told reporters at the Roland-Garros venue.
The 23-time singles Grand Slam champion revealed she will undergo an MRI scan on Tuesday to discover the severity of the injury – which may keep her out of Wimbledon next month.
Maria, 31, is a longtime rival of Serena, having beaten her in the 2004 Wimbledon final. However, their rivalry has been one-sided as the American hadn’t lost to her in 14 years before forfeiting Monday’s match.
Explaining her desire to face Maria, Serena added, “It’s very difficult. I love playing Maria. I’ve made every sacrifice I could. I made a commitment to myself and my team that if I wasn’t at least 60 per cent I wouldn’t play. I’ve never felt this in my life. It’s so painful.
“I’m beyond disappointed. 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.”