Serena exits French Open before Sharapova showdown

Following a pectoral injury, Serena Williams has confirmed her withdrawal from the 2018 French Open ahead of her highly-anticipated clash against Maria Sharapova.

“I’ve unfortunately been having some issues with my pec muscle… right now I can’t actually serve, so it’s actually hard to play when I can’t physically serve,” the tennis powerhouse said at a media briefing.

Williams was set to take on Sharapova on Court Philippe Chatrier just minutes later, but said the tapings she used during Sunday’s doubles match against Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez had not been effective in alleviating her injury.

“Every match has been getting better, physically I’ve been great,” the American tennis player said. “I can only take solace in the fact that I’m going to get better.”

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. This year’s French Open is Williams’s first Grand Slam since giving birth in September last year. When she was a few months pregnant, she participated in and won the 2017 Australian Open.

READ MORE: Serena set for Grand Slam return at Roland Garros

“It’s very difficult because I love playing Maria,” the 36-year-old said. “It’s a match I always get up for. Its extremely disappointing but I made a promise to myself that if I’m not at least 50%, I shouldn’t play”

It’s been 14 years since Sharapova won against Williams and it has been 10 years since Sharapova took a set against Serena.

Williams and the Russian have not met since January 2016, when the former defeated Sharapova in the Australian Open quarter-finals. Shortly after that match, Sharapova announced she had failed a test for the banned substance meldonium.

Sharapova is seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam since her suspension following her confession and is playing her first French Open since 2015 after being refused a wildcard by tournament organisers last year.

READ MORE: Maria Sharapova reveals she failed drug test

On Saturday, Serena stoked her fans’ anticipation for their alleged feud to come to a head when she slammed Sharapova’s memoir Unstoppable, calling the book “100% hearsay”.

The withdrawal of Williams from the competition means Sharapova now advances to the quarterfinals for a ninth time. She will await the winner of Monday’s match between Spaniard-Venezuelan Garbine Muguruza and Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
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