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, which she called “bad timing” and “bad luck,” and went to lengths to make clear she didn't think this was any sort of sign that she can't continue to pursue trophies in the future.
More simply, Williams 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.
“I love playing tennis, obviously. I love competing. And I love being out here. It’s my job; been my job. And I’m pretty good at it still," Williams said. "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.”
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.
“I was able to get it somewhat better, but just looking long-term: In this tournament, will I be able to get through on enough matches? And so for me, I don’t think I could,” Williams said Wednesday. "And struggling to walk, so that’s kind of a tell-tale sign that I should try to recover.”