Serena Williams out of French Open, ‘struggling to walk’

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Serena Williams withdrew from the French Open, citing an Achilles injury, before a scheduled second-round match on Wednesday.

“Struggling to walk, so that’s kind of a tell-tale sign,” she said. “Long-term in this tournament, will I be able to get through enough matches? And so, for me, I don’t think I could.”

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, was due to play Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova on Wednesday. Williams, after a warm-up, spoke with her coach, and they decided not to play.

Williams injured her Achilles in a U.S. Open semifinal loss to Victoria Azarenka three weeks ago, taking a third-set medical timeout.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

“My body is willing,” Williams said. “This is not a nagging injury. This is an acute injury. So, if it was my knee, that would be more, really devastating for me. But this is something that just happened, and it’s super acute and that’s totally different. So, I feel like my body is actually doing really, really well, and I just ran into, for lack of a better word, bad timing and bad luck, really, in New York. It happened, but my body is actually doing really, really well.”

After flying to France, she spent most of her preparation time for Roland Garros rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a first-round, post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

Williams, seeded sixth, beat countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0 in the first round on Monday.

“In the second set, I just felt like I needed to walk with a limp, and that was no good,” Williams said. “I had to focus on walking straight so I wasn’t limping. I tried. I always give 100 percent. Everyone knows that. Maybe even more than 100 if that’s possible. I take solace in that. I think Achilles is a real injury that you don’t want to play with because that is not good if it gets worse.”

It’s the second time in three years that Williams withdrew from the French Open on the day of a scheduled match.

In 2018, in her first major since childbirth, she didn’t play a fourth-round match with Maria Sharapova, citing a right pectoral muscle injury that prevented her from serving.

This French Open, which began the day after Williams turned 39, marked her 10th major since having daughter Olympia. She made the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals in 2018 and 2019, losing all four matches in bids to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Slam singles titles.

Williams began Roland Garros as an underdog behind clear favorite and No. 1 seed Simona Halep, the 2018 French Open champion who won both of her tournaments (both on clay) since tennis resumed in the summer.

With the WTA’s autumn Asian swing canceled, Williams may not play until the new season starts in Australia in late December or January.

“I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing, at least two weeks of just sitting down, and then from after that two weeks I have been told that I need to start doing a little training,” she said. “It will give me a lot of time to fully recover for the future.”

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

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Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz set French Open semifinal showdown

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Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will play in the French Open semifinals on Friday in the most anticipated match of the tournament.

Each man advanced with a quarterfinal win on Tuesday.

Djokovic, eyeing a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam men’s singles title, rallied past 11th-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4. The Serb reached his 45th career major semifinal, one shy of Roger Federer‘s men’s record.

Later Tuesday, top seed Alcaraz crushed fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (5) to consolidate his status as the favorite in Friday’s showdown.

“This match, everyone wants to watch,” Alcaraz said. “I really wanted to play this match as well. I always say that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Alcaraz, who at last year’s U.S. Open became the first male teen to win a major since Rafael Nadal in 2005, is at this event the youngest man to be the top seed at a major since Boris Becker at 1987 Wimbledon.

The Djokovic-Alcaraz semifinal will produce the clear favorite for Sunday’s final given left-handed 14-time French Open champion Nadal is out this year with a hip injury and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev lost in the first round. Djokovic and Nadal share the record 22 men’s major titles.

Djokovic and Alcaraz met once, with Alcaraz winning last year on clay in Madrid 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5).

“[Alcaraz] brings a lot of intensity on the court,” Djokovic said, before breaking into a smile. “Reminds me of someone from his country that plays with a left hand.”

Alcaraz and Djokovic were set to be on opposite halves of the draw — and thus not able to meet until the final — until Medvedev won the last top-level clay event before the French Open to move ahead of Djokovic in the rankings. That meant Djokovic had a 50 percent chance to wind up in Alcaraz’s half, and that’s what the random draw spit out two weeks ago.

Earlier Tuesday in the first two women’s quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and 43rd-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova advanced to face off in Thursday’s semifinals.

Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, swept Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4 to complete her set of semifinals in all four Grand Slams. Sabalenka will take the No. 1 ranking from Iga Swiatek if Swiatek loses before the final, or if Sabalenka makes the final and Swiatek does not win the title.

Svitolina, a former world No. 3, returned to competition in April from childbirth.

Muchova took out 2021 French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 7-5, 6-2, to make her second major semifinal after the 2021 Australian Open.

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw

Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They meet in Friday’s semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw