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Serena Williams stunned the tennis world on Wednesday night after withdrawing from the French Open before her second-round match.
Williams announced her withdrawal from Roland Garros less than an hour before her clash with Tsvetana Pironkova, citing a recurrence of an Achilles injury she suffered at the US Open.
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The shock announcement means the American’s bid for a 24th grand slam title suffered another blow and sparked further doubts over the 39-year-old’s long-term future in the sport.
Williams, a three-time champion in Paris, had arrived at the tournament carrying the Achilles tendon injury from a gruelling US Open semi-final defeat to Victoria Azarenka.
“The Achilles didn't have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams.
“I was struggling to walk and that is a tell-tale sign that I should try to recover.”
The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020, leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court's all-time majors record.
“I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing,” said Williams, the Roland Garros champion in 2002, 2013 and 2015.
“It's more than likely that I won’t play another tournament this year.”
Fans flooded to social media in shock after Williams’ announcement.
Serena Willliams’ grand slam drought continues
Williams, now into her fourth decade on tour, has not won a slam since capturing a seventh Australian Open in 2017 when she was pregnant.
Since then, it’s been a series of near-misses for a player who also pulled out of Paris in 2018 on the even of an eagerly-awaited last-16 clash with Maria Sharapova.
After returning from giving birth, she reached the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019.
In 2020, she fell in three sets in the fourth round in Australia to China’s Wang Qiang while the cancellation of Wimbledon was another roadblock.
She will leave Paris knowing full well that such a disrupted season represented her best opportunity to add to her majors haul.
In New York, six of the world’s top players opted not to play.
At Roland Garros, four of the leading 10 are missing - World No.1 and defending champion Ashleigh Barty, US Open winner Naomi Osaka, 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu as well as Swiss No.10 Belinda Bencic.
“I love playing tennis, obviously. I love competing. And I love being out here,” Williams said.
“It's my job; been my job. And I'm pretty good at it still.
“So until I feel like I'm not good at it - then I'll be like, 'Oh, OK'.
“And I'm so close to some things, I just feel like I'm almost there, so I think that's what keeps me going.”
Pironkova, who gave Williams a tough time in the quarter-finals in New York, will face Barbora Krejcikova in the third round.
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