After a resurgent first week at the French Open, Serena Williams was stopped short on Monday — not by her would-be opponent, Maria Sharapova, but by an injury to her right pectoral muscle that forced her to withdraw shortly before their fourth-round match was set to begin.
“Right now I can’t actually serve,” said Williams, 36, as she announced her withdrawal in an overstuffed interview room at Roland Garros. “It’s kind of hard to play when I can’t physically serve.”
This is the latest setback in Williams’s comeback after giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, last September.
“I’m beyond disappointed,” she said. “You know, I gave up so much, from time with my daughter to time with my family. I put everything on the court, you know. All for this moment. So it’s really difficult to be in this situation, but I always, for now in my life, I just always try to think positive and just think of the bigger picture and hopefully the next events and the rest of the year.”
She made the unusual decision to forgo all of the clay court warm-up tournaments before the French Open and arrived here ranked 453rd and unseeded. But she quickly began hitting high notes once the tournament began, winning three rounds and defeating two seeded players — No. 17 Ash Barty and No. 11 Julia Görges — to set up her latest duel with Sharapova, whom she had defeated 18 times in a row.
Williams said she began feeling pain in her pectoral muscle during her third-round victory over Görges on Saturday. She still decided to play doubles on Sunday night with her sister Venus, a match they lost in three sets. She seemed to struggle with her serve in the later stages of the match.