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Serena Williams pulls out of French Open before Maria Sharapova match

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Serena Williams withdrew from the French Open with a pectoral muscle injury, minutes before she was expected to take the court to face Maria Sharapova in Monday’s fourth round.

“Right now I can’t actually serve,” Williams said, noting the injury has worsened since she first felt it in her last singles match Saturday. “It’s kind of hard to play when I can’t physically serve.”

Williams said she would get an MRI on Tuesday and “see as many specialists as I can” before determining whether she can play Wimbledon in four weeks.

It’s the second time Williams has withdrawn from singles play in 67 career Grand Slams after retiring during a 1998 Wimbledon third-round match with a calf injury. It’s her first time dealing with this kind of injury.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion won her first three singles matches (and played three doubles matches, including one Sunday) at her first Grand Slam since capturing the 2017 Australian Open title while eight weeks pregnant.

Williams came into Roland Garros having played four WTA Tour matches, all in March, since giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. on Sept. 1.

VIDEO: Williams calls Sharapova book ‘100 percent hearsay’

“I’m beyond disappointed,” she said. “I gave up so much from time with my daughter to time with my family. I put everything on the court, you know? All for this moment. So, it’s really difficult to be in this situation.”

Williams was favored against the two-time French Open champion Sharapova, whom Williams has beaten 18 straight times since 2005.

“It’s difficult because I love playing Maria,” Williams said. “It’s a match I always get up for. Her game matches so well against mine.”

Sharapova, seeded 28th at her first French Open since 2015, will play No. 3 Garbine Muguruza or Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko in the quarterfinals.

“I was looking forward to my match against Serena today and am disappointed that she had to withdraw,” Sharapova said in a statement. “I wish her a speedy recovery and hope she returns to the tour soon.”

Also Monday, No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki fell to No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russia 7-6 (5), 6-3.

In the men’s fourth round, 10-time champ Rafael Nadal swept 70th-ranked German Maximilian Marterer 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4), coming back from having his serve broken to open the match.

French Open Quarterfinals
Women
(1) Simona Halep – (12) Angelique Kerber
(3) Garbine Muguruza – (28) Maria Sharapova 
Yulia Putintseva – (13) Madison Keys
(10) Sloane Stephens – (14) Daria Kasatkina

Men
(1) Rafael Nadal – (11) Diego Schwartzman
(3) Marin Cilic – (5) Juan Martin del Potro
Marco Cecchinato – (20) Novak Djokovic
(7) Dominic Thiem – (2) Alexander Zverev

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FRENCH OPEN: TV/Stream Schedule | Scores | Men’s Draw (PDF) | Women’s Draw

Novak Djokovic rolls at French Open; top women escape

Novak Djokovic
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Novak Djokovic began what could be a march to his 18th Grand Slam title, sweeping Swede Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open first round on Tuesday.

The top seed Djokovic lost just seven points in the first set. He gets Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the second round in a half of the draw that includes no other man with French Open semifinal experience.

Djokovic had plenty going for him into Roland Garros, seeking to repeat his 2016 run to the title. The chilly weather is similar to four years ago.

“I don’t like usually comparing the years,” he said. “But I think [the conditions are] quite suitable to my style of the game.”

As is Djokovic’s form. His only loss in 2020 was when he was defaulted at the U.S. Open for hitting a ball in anger that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Djokovic got a break with the draw when No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem was put in No. 2 Rafael Nadal‘s half. The Serbian also won his clay-court tune-up event in Rome, where he received warnings in back-to-back matches for breaking a racket and uttering an obscenity.

“I don’t think that [the linesperson incident] will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court,” Djokovic said before Roland Garros. “I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

“I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match. Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way.”

If Djokovic can lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires two Sundays from now, he will move within two of Roger Federer‘s career Slams record. Also notable: He would keep Nadal from tying Federer’s record and head into the Australian Open in January, his signature Slam, with a chance to match Nadal at 19.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Tuesday, No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 Sofia Kenin each needed three sets to reach the second round.

The Czech Pliskova rallied past Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Pliskova, the highest-ranked player without a major title, next gets 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

“Let’s not talk about my level [of play],” Pliskova said. “I think there is big room for improvement.”

Kenin, the American who won the Australian Open in February, outlasted Russian Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“It doesn’t matter how you win — ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter,” Kenin said on Tennis Channel.

She gets Romanian Ana Bogdan in the second round. Only one other seed — No. 14 Elena Rybakina — is left in Kenin’s section en route to a possible quarterfinal.

American Jen Brady, who made a breakthrough run to the U.S. Open semifinals, was beaten by Danish qualifier Clara Tauson  6-4, 3-6, 9-7.

Sam Querrey nearly made it eight American men into the second round, serving for the match in the third set. But he succumbed to 13th-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. It’s still the best first-round showing for U.S. men since nine advanced in 1996.

The second round begins Wednesday, highlighted by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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U.S. men off to best French Open start in 24 years

Sebastian Korda
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The last time U.S. men started this well at the French Open, Sebastian Korda wasn’t alive and his dad had yet to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Eight American men are into the second round at Roland Garros, the largest contingent in the last 64 since 1996. It could have been nine, had Sam Querrey served out the match in the third set against 13th seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

Still, the U.S. has more men in the second round than any other nation. Astonishing, given U.S. men went a collective 1-9 at the 2019 French Open.

Back in 1996, nine American men won first-round matches. That group included Pete SamprasAndre AgassiJim Courier and Michael Chang (in Sampras’ deepest run in Paris, to the semifinals).

Clay has long been kryptonite for this generation of Americans — the last U.S. man to make a Roland Garros quarterfinal was Agassi in 2003.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

This group includes veterans like Jack Sock, who swept countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 on Monday. Sock, 28, was once ranked eighth in the world.

He then dropped out of the rankings entirely, missing time due to injury and going 10 months between tour-level match wins. He’s now at No. 310 and preparing to play No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the second round.

“A pretty horrific two years in a row,” Sock said. “I’m not opposed to silencing some haters after the last couple years I’ve gone through. I’ve read and seen enough of it, heard enough of it. I’m kind of ready to reestablish myself out there, let people know that I’m back.”

Then there’s 35-year-old John Isner, the big server who swept a French wild card in round one. Isner, the highest seeded U.S. man at No. 21, has posted some decent Roland Garros results, reaching the fourth round three times.

There are new faces, too. Taylor Fritz is seeded 27, aged 22 and in an open section of the draw to make his first Grand Slam fourth round.

On Sunday, 20-year-old Korda became the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since an 18-year-old Andy Roddick beat Chang in 2001.

He is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second- and 22nd-ranked female golfers (Nelly and Jessica).

So far, Sebastian’s biggest feats: winning the 2018 Australian Open junior title and, in his only golf tournament, beating both of his sisters when he was 11. It was around that age that he gave up ice hockey and focused solely on tennis.

Korda was hooked after watching a Czech whom his dad coached, Radek Stepanek, at the U.S. Open in 2009.

“He played Djokovic on [Arthur] Ashe [Stadium] like at 10:30 at night,” Korda, nicknamed Sebi, said on Tennis Channel. “Completely packed. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I went home, and I was like, this is exactly what I want to do.”

An American man is already guaranteed to make the third round in Paris. Korda faces Isner on Thursday.

“I grew up on the clay,” Korda said, “so I know how to play on it a little bit.”

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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