By Ros Satar, in Paris

  • Serena Williams withdrew moments before her match with Maria Sharapova with an injury
  • Will see medical specialists in France before making next decisions
PARIS, FRANCE – Serena Williams retired shortly before her much anticipated match-up with Maria Sharapova with a pectoral injury, and is unsure of next plans.

 

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The injury

Three-time champion Serena Williams has pulled out of Roland Garros and a muchfourth round clash with Maria Sharapova with an injury to her pectoral muscle, that left her unable to serve in her doubles match on Sunday. With the rumours flying on twitter mid-way through Rafael Nadal’s third set against Maximilian Marterer, journalists were called to the main interview room.

Williams confirmed: “I unfortunately have been having some issues with my pec[toral] muscle and has unfortunately been getting worse to the point where right now I can’t actually serve. It’s kind of hard to play when I can’t physically serve.

“It didn’t start before I got here. The first time I felt it was against [Julia] Goerges in my last match. That’s when I started to feel it. I was, like, it was really painful, and I didn’t know what it was.

“In my doubles yesterday, I tried a lot of different tapings, and I tried lots of different types of support to see how it would feel under match circumstance. It didn’t really get a lot better.”

Williams had been training at coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy during the start of the clay court season, but had pulled out of Madrid and Rome which are the lead-up events, especially for the WTA elite players.

She confirmed that this was not an injury she had ever had before. As we saw when Andrea Petkovic tweaked her knee against Simona Halep – she was immediately aware what the injury was, how long it would take to heal, joking that if it was at least new she could have a dramatic exit on the court, instead of knowing it would hurt but cleat up in a few days.

However, for Williams, this will be a new learning curve, slap bang in the most gruelling part of the season.

She added: “I don’t really know how to manage it yet. Sadly, when you do have an injury that you have had before, you can kind of manage it. I have pretty much had every injury in the book. But this is a little different, and, yeah, I’m clueless as to what to do. I’m just going to do what the doctor thinks I should do and get all the evaluations on it.”

 

The prognosis

Serena Williams in the second round of Roland Garros, 2018

Serena Williams in the second round of Roland Garros, 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Williams is staying in France and will get an MRI on Tuesday before making any decisions as to the grass court season, although she did let on that it might still be a possibility.

She said: “I’m going to get an MRI tomorrow. I’m going to stay here and see some of the doctors here, see as many specialists as I can. And I won’t know that until I get those results.

“I have been doing so good. I have been really, you know, like I was saying, every match has been getting better for me. Physically I’m doing great. It hasn’t been easy. I sacrificed so much to be at this event.

“I can only take solace in the fact I’m going to continue to get better. And I had such a wonderful performance in my first Grand Slam back. I just feel like it’s only going to do better. And I’m coming up on hopefully surfaces that are my absolute favourite to play on and that I do best on. Hopefully, you know, I can continue to heal and be able to play those events.”

 

The anticipation of the match-up

Maria Sharapova in the first round of Roland Garros, 2018

Maria Sharapova in the first round of Roland Garros, 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

It is no secret that the prospect of Episode 22 of this match-up had been the talk of the tournament at the start of the second week. While Sharapova has been into her comeback from a drug suspension for a lot longer, her progress had been up ad down to say the least and with the exception of winning a title in Tianjin, her best performances since her return came in Rome in the lead up to the tournament, and her first few rounds here.

Williams said, of the match: “It’s very difficult, because I love playing Maria. You know, it’s just a match I always get up for. You know, it’s just her game matches so well against mine.”

The reality is this might have been Sharapova’s best chance to end a run of losses dating back to 2004 and her breakout year starting with her win over Williams at Wimbledon and ending at the WTA Season Ending Finals that year.

Since then, it can hardly have been called a rivalry with Williams dominating every encounter.

After the announcement, Sharapova said, in a statement: “I was looking forward to my match against Serena today and am disappointed that she had to withdraw. I wish her a speedy recovery and hope she returns to the tour soon.

 

READ MORE | Roland Garros 2018 | Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova: Two journeys, one French Open fourth round, many words | Three thoughts

Roland Garros 2018 | Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova: Two journeys, one French Open fourth round, many words | Three thoughts

 

The bigger picture

If there is one thing to notice about Williams on her return, it is how she seems to take stock of the bigger picture – something that she admits quite readily.

“I have given up so much to be here. There [are] times where I’m on the court and I’m practicing, and I look on the monitor and I see my daughter and she’s playing and I want to be there, but I know that these are the sacrifices you have to make to live out your dream.

“And I have made every sacrifice that I could. So it’s extremely disappointing. But also, I made a promise to myself and to my coach and to my team that if I’m not at least 60% or 50%, then I probably shouldn’t play. The fact that I physically can’t serve at all is a good indication that maybe I should just go back to the drawing board and stay positive and try to get better and not get it to a point where it could be a lot worse.”

Sharapova will now go on to face the winner of the fourth-round match between Lesia Tsurenko and Garbiñe Muguruza, later on Monday.

 

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