Mere moments before she was set to take the court against Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round of the French Open, Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament, citing a lingering left Achilles injury.
ESPN and the Guardian report that the 39-year-old suffered the injury during her semifinal loss to Victoria Azarenka at the U.S. Open earlier this month and was forced to withdraw from the Italian Open shortly after. The unfortunate injury has only gotten worse since, and on Wednesday, she was ordered to rest and recuperate.
So will we see the 23-time Grand Slam champion back on the court this year?
“Just two weeks of sitting down and doing nothing and, after that, I’ve been told I need to do a little training,” Williams said. “But, doing the math on that, more than likely—I don’t know if I’ll be able to play another tournament this year. It will mean a lot of time to fully recover for the future.”
After warming up for her match on Wednesday, Williams decided to pull the plug on competing after a noticeable limp restricted her mobility. This is her earliest exit at any Grand Slam tournament since her second-round loss to Garbiñe Muguruza in Paris in 2014, and deprives her of yet another chance to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
Williams’ last Grand Slam win was at the 2017 Australian Open, and with age and attrition taking their toll, there are whispers that fate might no longer be on her side.
“I’d love to see her get to 24. So many people would,” Anne Keothavong, Britain’s Fed Cup captain, said. “But I do believe it’s going to be increasingly tough for her. Players aren’t as afraid of her anymore. It’s going to take a huge effort. The women’s game is so open right now. There aren’t two or three players, there are five to 10 players who can win a Grand Slam.”
For her part, Williams is confident that once fully recovered, she’ll resume her quest to win a 24th major.
“I love playing tennis,” she said. “I love competing and I love being out here. It’s my job—and I’m pretty good at it still. So, until I feel like I’m not good at it, I’ll be OK. And I’m so close to some things. Like, I’m almost there. That’s what keeps me going.”