Serena Williams has pulled out of the French Open with injury, shortly before a much anticipated fourth-round showdown with Maria Sharapova.
The 36-year-old 23-times Grand Slam champion, making a Grand Slam comeback after maternity leave, blamed a pectoral muscle injury, saying she was “beyond disappointed”.
“Unfortunately I’m having some issues with my pec muscle,” she said at a press conference at Roland Garros.
“Right now I can’t actually serve so it’s actually hard to play when I can’t physically serve.”
Williams said she planned to have an MRI scan on Tuesday.
The American former number one had worked hard to get back in shape after the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia last September.
“Physically I’m doing great. It hasn’t been easy,” she said.
“I sacrificed so much to be at this event. I’m going to continue to get better.”
The match was going to be among the most anticipated in the tournament, a clash between two of the world’s biggest tennis stars. Williams has won 19 of their head-to-head meetings, including 18 in a row.
News of her pullout comes after the editor of a tennis magazine was criticised for asking Williams if she was intimidated by her rival’s appearance.
Bill Simons, editor and publisher of Inside Tennis, was criticised as sexist after calling Williams “baby” and asking whether she had found her rival’s “supermodel good looks” intimidating.
I apologize if my awkward ques seemed 2 empower Trump or attack Serena/I SO admire her/I’ve spent lifetime fighting racism/sexism/homophobia.Started campaign 2 name US Open Stad 4 Ashe/Lobbied long 2 get Serena 2 return to I. Wells/Called out police violence vs Blake/I’m so sorry
— INSIDE TENNIS (@BillSimons1) June 4, 2018
In his article, he wrote: “I asked Serena about comments President Donald Trump made to me in 2004 about her and Maria Sharapova.
“Trump, who’s been criticised for judging women based on their bodies – he mentioned how alluring he thought Sharapova’s shoulders were.
“Then he put forth perhaps one of the most absurd tennis analyses I’ve ever heard.
“He said that when Serena lost the 2004 Wimbledon final, she was intimidated by Sharapova’s supermodel good looks.
“Serena understandably didn’t want to comment on that, but added, ‘I can’t say that I have ever been intimidated by anyone.'”
She’s the most accomplished female tennis player EVER yet you tried your best to reduce her accomplishments to how she looks in her outfits on the court compared to her opponent. You need to be fired its time for racists, sexists and whatever else to be held accountable
— veronica sturgis (@Barbee_O) June 3, 2018
That was an insanely rude, moronic, classless question. Do you ask men the same question?
— Alex (@rollercams) June 3, 2018
A number of readers on Twitter were angry at his question, one writing: “She’s the most accomplished female tennis player EVER yet you tried your best to reduce her accomplishments to how she looks in her outfits on the court compared to her opponent.”
Another person wrote: “That was an insanely rude, moronic, classless question. Do you ask men the same question?”
On Sunday Simons apologised on Twitter, writing: “I apologise if my awkward ques seemed 2 empower Trump or attack Serena/ I SO admire her/ I’ve spent [my] lifetime fighting racism/ sexism/ homophobia.”