US tennis star Serena Williams’s search for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title will extend into another year after an Achilles tendon injury forced her to withdraw from the French Open on Wednesday.
The American, who turned 39 this week, had been due to play Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round in Paris later, but after warming up for the match decided the injury was too severe to continue.
Ninth-ranked Williams, a three-time former champion at Roland Garros, said she may not play again this year.
“I warmed up and it was a very short warm-up and then I spoke to my coach and said ‘what do you think?'” she said.
“I was struggling to walk so that’s a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”
Williams had suffered the problem during her semi-final loss to Victoria Azarenka at the US Open earlier this month and said ahead of her French Open campaign she was not at 100 percent physically but had recovered sufficiently to play.
The 23-time major champion hands Pironkova a walkover into the third round.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) September 30, 2020
This is Williams’s earliest exit at any Grand Slam tournament since a second-round loss in Paris in 2014.
Her last major title came at the 2017 Australian Open before going on to give birth to her first child, daughter Alexis Olympia.
Since resuming her career in 2018 after a maternity break, Williams has remained tantalisingly close to equalling Australian Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, losing in four major finals.
“I love playing tennis. I love competing,” she said on Wednesday. “It’s my job and I’m pretty good at it still… I’m so close to some things and I feel like I’m almost there… that’s what keeps me going.
“My body is actually doing really well.”
The French Open, which is usually held in May in Paris, was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The tournament has been scaled back to allow just 1,000 daily spectators.