Saying she is “struggling to walk,” Serena Williams ended her latest bid for a 24th Grand Slam title and withdrew from the French Open before her second-round match Wednesday because of an injured Achilles heel.
Williams hurt herself during her semifinal loss at the U.S. Open three weeks ago and said she hasn’t had “enough time to properly heal” and needs “four to six weeks of sitting, doing nothing.”
The sudden announcement came roughly an hour before the 39-year-old American was supposed to head out onto Court Philippe Chatrier to face Tsvetana Pironkova.
Williams said it is “more than likely” she will not play another tournament in 2020.
She said she tried warming up for the match but knew she wasn’t able to compete. She spoke to coach Patrick Mouratoglou and, she said, “We kind of both thought about it and we decided it wasn’t the best for me to try and play today.”
This is Williams’ earliest exit at any Grand Slam tournament since a second-round loss in Paris in 2014.
She also pulled out of the French Open in 2018 prior to what would have been a fourth-round match against Maria Sharapova, citing a pulled muscle in her chest.
That was Williams’ first major tournament back on tour after having a baby.
She would go on to reach the finals at four of the next six Slams, losing each time, as she tries to add to her professional-era record of 23 major singles trophies and equal Margaret Court’s all-era mark.
Earlier this month in New York, Williams made it to the semifinals before bowing out 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 against Victoria Azarenka.
It was in the third set of that match that Williams stretched her Achilles during a point and then leaned over, clutched at her lower left leg and asked for a trainer. She took a medical timeout for a tape job and continued to play but was unable to pull off a win.
Now the question becomes when the world will see Williams compete next.
“I think I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing,” she said Wednesday. “At least two weeks of just sitting down.”
AP Sports Writer Pugmire reported from Paris; AP Tennis Writer Fendrich reported from Washington. AP Sports Writer John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report.
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