Serena Williams withdrew from her fourth-round French Open match today against Maria Sharapova with a right pectoral injury that she said prevents her from serving. The decision was announced just before the match between the two rivals was slated to begin.
Williams said in a press conference that despite trying various muscle taping methods during her doubles match yesterday, she “physically can’t serve at all.” Williams said she will be getting an MRI tomorrow and can’t say whether she’ll be back in time for Wimbledon, which starts four weeks from today.
“I’m beyond disappointed. I gave up so much from time with my daughter to time with my family, and I put everything on the court all for this moment, so it’s really difficult to be in this situation,” she said.
She said she was looking forward to playing Sharapova.
“I love playing Maria,” Williams said. “Her game matches so well against mine.”
Williams also said she had promised her team and herself that if she wasn’t at least at “60 percent, 50 percent” then she wouldn’t try to play.
Sharapova and Williams have a long and one-sided rivalry, with Williams leading their career head-to-head 19-2. The last time Sharapova beat Williams was in the 2004 Wimbledon final. Adding even more drama to the rivalry, the two continue to barely mask their dislike for one another. In her book released last year, Sharapova wrote extensively about Williams, including that Williams cried in the locker room after the 2004 Wimbledon final. An excerpt:
“Guttural sobs, the sort that make you heave for air, the sort that scares you,” Sharapova wrote. “It went on and on. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there. People often wonder why I have had so much trouble beating Serena; she’s owned me in the past 10 years. My record against her is 2-19.
“In analysing this, people talk about Serena’s strength, her serve and confidence, how her particular game matches up to my particular game, and, sure there is truth to all of that; but, to me, the real answer was there, in this locker room, where I was changing and she was bawling. I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon.”
Williams did not comment publicly on the book or the implication that her dominance over Sharapova came down to a single match in 2004, but after winning her third-round match on Saturday, Williams was asked about Sharapova and the book. She threw the most exquisite shade. Bizarrely, it started like this:
On Sharapova’s comeback from a doping ban:
“We are both on a comeback for two totally different reasons. She’s been on her journey for over a year and I just started mine a couple months ago. It’s something new and different. I don’t know what else to say.”
On Sharapova’s “hearsay” book:
“The book was 100 percent hearsay – at least all the stuff I read and the quotes that I read, which was a little bit disappointing. I have cried in the locker room many times after a loss. I think it’s normal. If anything, it shows the passion and the desire and the will that you have to want to go out there and do the best. It’s a Wimbledon final, you know?
“It would be more shocking if I wasn’t in tears. I do have emotions and I wear them on my sleeve. I’m human. What happens there should definitely maybe stay there and not necessarily talk about it in a not‑so‑positive way in a book.”
On their fourth-round match:
“Quite frankly, she’s probably a favourite. She’s been playing for over a year now. I just started. I’m just trying to get my bearings. This will be another test. This is one of her best surfaces, and she always does really, really well here.”
On not having any hard feelings towards Sharapova:
“I don’t have any negative feelings towards her. It was a little disappointing to see in that hearsay book. Especially having a daughter, I feel negativity is taught. Women, especially, should bring each other up.
“A lot of people always assume that I feel a different way and it’s not true. You know, if anything, I feel like we should encourage each other and the success of one female should be the inspiration to another. I have said that a thousand times. I always get inspired by other women that are doing well.
“Before her incident of drugs or not, I just feel she was doing good. Now she’s doing well again, and I have never had any hard feelings toward her. Whenever I play her, obviously I go out there the way I play everyone else. I go extremely hard. I don’t play anyone different. I play everyone so hard because they play me really hard, and I always have to be ready for it.
“As a fan, I was really excited for it to come out and I was really happy for her. And then the book was a lot about me. I was surprised about that, to be honest. I didn’t expect to be reading a book about me that wasn’t necessarily true. I didn’t know she looked up to me that much or was so involved in my career.”
While tennis fans will rue the loss of what would have been another spicy chapter in one of tennis’s fiercest rivalries, the real victim here of course is Sharapova, robbed as she has been of a rare opportunity to actually beat Williams for the first time in nearly 15 years.