PARIS, France, Sep 30 – Serena Williams suffered another blow in her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title as the American withdrew from the French Open on Wednesday with an Achilles injury, while 12-time champion Rafael Nadal and women’s top seed Simona Halep eased into the third round.
The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match against Tsvetana Pironkova citing the injury that prompted her to skip the Rome tune-up event.
“The Achilles didn’t have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams, who admitted last week she was not fully fit after her run to the semi-finals in New York.
“I’m struggling to walk, so that’s kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”
The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020, leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court’s all-time majors record.
“I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing,” she said. “It’s more than likely that I won’t play another tournament this year.”
Her decision to pull out handed Pironkova a walkover and left Williams searching for a first major since the last of her 23 titles at Melbourne in 2017.
“I always give 100 percent, everyone knows that. Maybe even more than 100 if that’s possible. I take solace in that,” she told reporters.
“I think the Achilles is a real injury that you don’t want to play with because that is not good if it gets worse.”
Nadal looked in ominous form as he stepped up his pursuit of Roger Federer’s 20 major titles with a crushing win over 236th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald.
The Spaniard batted aside McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 and will meet Stefano Travaglia of Italy for a spot in the last 16.
“Today was not that cold, so that’s the main thing. Not that cold, the conditions are not that bad,” said Nadal, who has described the defence of his title at a tournament postponed four months by the coronavirus pandemic as his toughest yet.
“When you win like today it’s not bad, it means you don’t make many mistakes and manage to make a difference,” he added.
The 34-year-old needs one more major to pull level with long-time rival Federer and owns an astonishing 95-2 record in Paris going back to his triumph on debut in 2005.
Women’s favourite and 2018 champion Simona Halep beat compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3, 6-4 to extend her career-best winning streak to 16 matches.
However, her next opponent is American 25th seed Amanda Anisimova, the teenager who dumped Halep out in straight sets in last year’s quarter-finals.
“I remember the match from last year, I remember also that I didn’t play what I wanted, so I will do some changes and I will just try to play better and to take my chance,” said Halep.
– Bertens wins stormy Errani tussle –
US Open champion Dominic Thiem swept into the third round with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) victory over American qualifier Jack Sock, saving three set points to close out the match.
The Austrian third seed will play Norway’s Casper Ruud for a place in the last 16.
“I’m very happy with my game in the first two rounds. It was not an easy draw at all and I’m very happy not to drop a set,” said Thiem, who defeated 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in round one.
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev was taken the distance by home hope Pierre-Hugues Herbert but advanced 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4.
Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens had to be taken off court in a wheelchair after a tetchy win over former finalist Sara Errani.
Bertens triumphed 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 9-7 in a three-hour 11-minute clash which left her in cramps and Italian Errani screaming an obscenity as she left the court.
“After one hour, she’s injured but then she’s running around like never before,” said Errani. “It made me very angry.”
Bertens hit back at Errani who she said had squandered a series of opportunities to wrap up the tie.
“She can say whatever she feels like and if I was (faking) then maybe I should take up acting classes — I am not sure what she was thinking,” said Bertens.
Ukrainian third seed Elina Svitolina overcame Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.
Svitolina is coming off a title at Strasbourg last week and will next play Russian 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open winner, followed up his demolition of Andy Murray with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 defeat of Germany’s Dominik Koepfer.