After her first-round victory over Kristie Ahn on Monday, Williams said she was using ice, a laser and “a ton of prayer” to tend to the injury. She attempted a short warmup ahead of her match Wednesday before deciding to withdraw.
“I warmed up. It was a very short warmup, and then afterwards I talked to my coach and I was like: ‘What do you think? What are your thoughts with this?’ We both thought about it, and we realized that it more than likely wasn’t the best for me to try to play today,” Williams said.
“I love playing in Paris. Actually, I adore the clay. It’s so fun for me. And I really wanted to give an effort here, so it’s my Achilles’ that didn’t have enough time to properly heal after the [U.S. Open]. I was able to get it somewhat better, but just looking long term in this tournament, will I be able to get through enough matches? For me, I don’t think I could, struggling to walk, so that’s kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”
The withdrawal is Williams’s earliest exit from any Grand Slam tournament since a second-round loss at the French Open in 2014.
The delayed French Open is the final Grand Slam of this year, so Williams will have to wait until at least 2021 to try again to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 major singles titles.
Before the severity of her injury was known, the sixth-seeded Williams was considered a strong contender to win her fourth French Open title and add to the trophies she claimed in Paris in 2002, 2013 and 2015. Her second-round opponent, Bulgarian wild-card entry Tsvetana Pironkova, advanced to the third round via walkover.
Top-seeded Simona Halep is now an even stronger favorite to win her second French Open and third major title overall. All but two of the top 10 seeds in the women’s event are still competing — only Britain’s Johanna Konta, the ninth seed who was defeated by American teen Coco Gauff, lost in the first round.
None of the four U.S. Open women’s semifinalists remain in the French Open draw. Naomi Osaka, the champion at Flushing Meadows, opted not to play at Roland Garros; Jennifer Brady lost in the first round; and Azarenka lost in the second round Wednesday shortly after Williams’s announcement.
Williams showed no visible sign of injury in her opening victory, 7-6 (7-2), 6-0 over Ahn, though she said her Achilles’ was bothering her.
“In the second set I felt like I needed to walk with a limp, and that was no good. I had to focus on walking straight so I wasn’t limping,” Williams said Wednesday. “I tried. I always give 100 percent. Everyone knows that, maybe even more than 100 if that’s possible, and I take solace in that. So, yeah, I think Achilles’ is a real injury that you don’t want to play with because that is not good if it gets worse. I think it’s one of the worst. So I don’t want it to get to that point."
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