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AFP
October 1, 2020

Serena withdraws, Bertens in wheelchair on tumultuous day

Sports

AFP
October 1, 2020

PARIS: 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 raced 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 in exactly 100 minutes.

“The aim was to play as well as possible. I’m very happy. I have another difficult match next,” said Nadal.

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.

Top seed and women’s favourite Simona Halep goes up against compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu as she targets a second French Open crown in three years.

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, seeded 28th, or American Tommy Paul 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.

Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens had to be taken off court in a wheelchair after a fiery 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.

“She leaves the court in a chair and now she’s in the locker room and eating in the restaurant, perfect. She exaggerated.”

“It made me very angry, so well done to her but she can win without doing that.”

Bertens is due to meet Katerina Siniakova next while Elina Svitolina overcame Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

The Ukrainian third seed is coming off a title at Strasbourg last week and will next play Russian 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, but was briefly taken aback by a sonic boom.

The thunderous noise that panicked residents of Paris was caused by a French fighter jet that broke the sound barrier.

“I was a bit worried because I thought something bad happened,” said Svitolina.

The military said the plane had been scrambled to go to the aid of another aircraft that had lost radio contact, and was authorised to travel at supersonic speed.

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.

Sebastian Korda, the son of 1992 Roland Garros runner-up and 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, also progressed after a four-sets victory over fellow American John Isner.