Achilles dashes Serena dream

Paris, September 30

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 US Open three weeks ago and 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. Earlier this month in New York, Williams made it to the semifinals before bowing out 6-1 3-6 3-6 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. Now the question becomes when the world will see Williams compete next. “I think I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing,” she said today. “At least two weeks of just sitting down.” — AP


Halep too good 

Simona Halep beat Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-4 to improve her overall record against her Romanian compatriot to 8-0. Top seed Halep, the 2018 champion, is chasing her third Major title.

Svitolina fights on

Third seed Elina Svitolina, who won the Strasbourg title on Saturday, was handed a bagel in the second set of her match against Mexico’s Renata Zarazua but regained focus to claim a 6-3 0-6 6-2 win and reach the third round.

Mertens wins 

Belgian 16th seed Elise Mertens beat Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi 6-4 7-5.

Bertens survives

Fifth seed Kiki Bertens narrowly avoided joining the exodus of women’s favourites as she survived a match point against Italian former runner-up Sara Errani before hobbling into the third round. Bertens eventually won 7-6(5) 3-6 9-7 in a claycourt duel lasting more than three hours but her prospects of continuing look bleak after she left the court in a wheelchair after struggling physically in the final set.

Dominic Thiem serves against Jack Sock. REUTERS


Dominic Thiem, the runner-up in 2018 and 2019, staved off a late comeback attempt by American qualifier Jack Sock in their first meeting on clay to win 6-1 6-3 7-6(6). “I’m very happy,” Thiem said. “I messed it up a bit in the third set, up 4-3 and 40-15. I found myself in the tiebreak and he played very well, particularly in the second and third sets. I was lucky to save the three set points in the tiebreak.”


Swiss 16th seed Stan Wawrinka suffered a mid-match blip before dismissing German Dominik Koepfer 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1.

Azarenka thrashed by Schmeidlova

Victoria Azarenka’s unhappy French Open campaign ended as the former world No. 1 was beaten 6-2 6-2 by Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the second round. The Belarussian 10th seed, who was criticised for moaning about the cold and damp conditions in her opening-round win, capitulated in feeble fashion against her 161st-ranked opponent. Her defeat continued an exodus of leading seeds with Johanna Konta (9), Madison Keys (12), last year’s runner-up Marketa Vondrousova (15) and another former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber (18) having already been beaten. Reuters

Rafa breezes into round 3

Rafael Nadal continued his quest for a record-extending 13th French Open title with a 6-1 6-0 6-3 crushing of American Mackenzie McDonald to advance into the third round today. The Spanish second seed, also looking to equal Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20 singles Grand Slam titles, was never bothered. The claycourt master played deep, using his forehand to devastating effect. After world No. 236 McDonald won the second game, Nadal bagged 11 games in a row to move two sets up and despite some resistance from his opponent early in the third set, he had no trouble improving his win-loss record at Roland Garros to 95-2. “My objective is to play as well as I can. It was a good match for me today. I’m very happy,” said Nadal. Reuters

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