The marquee matchup for the past decade in women’s tennis will have to wait. Serena Williams — for the first time at a major tournament –had to withdraw in the middle of the event before her match with Maria Sharapova. Rumors were leaked late Monday morning from French news outlets stating that Williams had suffered an arm injury and was doubtful to take the court.
The disappointment was palpable from all sides: fans, media, and Williams herself. At her press conference announcing her withdrawal, she clarified that “I unfortunately have been having some issues with my pec, my pec muscle, and has unfortunately been getting worse to the point where right now I can’t actually serve.”
Williams also stated that she first felt the pain in her pectoral muscle during her last singles match, which was a win over Germany’s Julia Goerges. At the time there were no signs that Williams was experiencing any discomfort, although the speed of her average serve did decrease in the second set of that match.
Williams did take the court the following afternoon to play doubles with her sister Venus in a match they ultimately lost in three sets. In hindsight, many have found that to be a questionable decision, considering we now know Serena was in a hampered state. Earlier in the week, coach Patrick Mouratouglou blamed her slow start in her second-round match with Ash Barty on a high level of muscle soreness.
Williams disagreed with the notion that doubles was a hindrance during this tournament.
“I really felt like I needed to because I’m never going to know how I feel under match play if I didn’t have that match,” she said. “And plus I wanted to try different tapings and different strappings and lots of different stuff to see what’s helping and what can help and what I could try in my singles match. And I’m not serving that often; I’m serving once every four games. So I thought it was a perfect opportunity for me to kind of see how I would be and how I would go in that.”
The results of that experiment obviously let Serena know another singles match was not feasible. At this stage of her career, Serena has promised her team that she will only play an event if she is at 100 percent of her capabilities, mentally and physically.
All things considered Williams was satisfied with her return to Grand Slam tournament play before the injury.
“I have been doing so good. I have been really, you know, like I was saying, every match has been getting better for me. Physically I’m doing great. You know, again, it hasn’t been easy. I sacrificed so much to be at this event. I can only take solace in the fact I’m going to continue to get better. And I had such a wonderful performance in my first Grand Slam back. I just feel like it’s only going to do better. And I’m coming up on hopefully surfaces that are my absolute favorite to play on and that I do best on.”
She played three matches on a demanding surface while defeating two top-20 seeds en route to the second week of Roland Garros. In the meantime, her concern will focus on whether her body will recover in time for Wimbledon. Williams plans on getting an MRI and seeing specialists in Paris to help her determine the best course of action. Wimbledon is the storied venue where the Williams family has combined to hold the trophy aloft 14 of the past 19 years. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that The Queen will be able to embrace SW19 once again… with arms and shoulders that are 100-percent ready to play.