Ailing Serena pulls out, Nadal wins

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Serena Williams called off her Grand Slam comeback because of a chest muscle injury yesterday,pulling out of the French Open shortly before she was supposed to play Maria Sharapova
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Reuters

Diego Schwartzman reacts after beating No. 6 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa in the French Open fourth round at Roland Garros in Paris yesterday. The Argentine won 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (0), 6-2. 

Serena Williams called off her Grand Slam comeback because of a chest muscle injury yesterday, pulling out of the French Open shortly before she was supposed to play Maria Sharapova in the fourth round.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Williams said during a news conference at Roland Garros. “But also, I made a promise to myself and to my coach and to my team that if I’m not at least 60 percent or 50 percent, then I probably shouldn’t play.”

Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, said she can’t hit serves because of a problem with her right pectoral muscle. Her voice trembled a bit as she explained that she will get an MRI exam and consult with doctors before figuring out what will happen next for her.

“The fact that I physically can’t serve at all is a good indication that maybe I should just go back to the drawing board and stay positive,” Williams said, “and try to get better and not get it to a point where it could be a lot worse.”

The 36-year-old American was competing at a major tournament for the first time in 16 months — and for the first time since giving birth to her daughter last September.

Sharapova wished Williams a speedy recovery and a rapid return to the tour in a two-sentence statement released by French Open organizers.

“I was looking forward to my match against Serena and am disappointed that she had to withdraw,” Sharapova said.

Williams said her chest began hurting in her third-round singles victory over 11th-seeded Julia Goerges on Saturday.

“It was really painful,” Williams said, “and I didn’t know what it was.”

Despite that, Williams played in a doubles loss alongside her older sister, Venus, on Sunday and tried to limit the pain by taping up the muscle. But nothing was effective enough that Williams thought she could continue in Paris.

Her withdrawal allows Sharapova, a two-time French Open champion, to move into the quarterfinals.

Their match had shaped up as the most-anticipated of the women’s tournament, even though Williams has won 19 of 21 previous head-to-head encounters, including the past 18 in a row.

Earlier, Caroline Wozniacki’s bid for a second straight Grand Slam title was ended as the second-seeded Dane lost to Daria Kasatkina 6-7 (5), 3-6 in the fourth round, dropping all three games played yesterday after the match had been suspended the day before because of darkness.

“I honestly didn’t think I played badly,” said Wozniacki, who won the Australian Open in January. “She didn’t miss one ball, and she was playing very close to the lines. I was trying what I could, but it just wasn’t enough.”

It was Kasatkina’s third straight win over Wozniacki, who has never been beyond the quarterfinals at the French Open.

“It’s something like a dream come true to play on this court, it was my dream since childhood,” said the 21-year-old Russian, who is seeded 14th.

Kasatkina has reached the quarterfinals for the first time at any major, and she will next play US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Top-seeded Simona Halep remains on course for her elusive first major after beating 16th-seeded Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-1.

Halep lost this year’s Australian Open final to Wozniacki. She also lost in last year’s French Open final and in the 2014 final. The 26-year-old Romanian will next face either two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, who beat France’s Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-3.

Also, Rafael Nadal moved a step closer to an incredible 11th French Open title by seeing off German Maximilian Marterer in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals.

The world No. 1’s 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory over the world No. 70 saw him equal the record of 12 last-eight appearances at Roland Garros, which was set by Novak Djokovic the day before.

Top seed Nadal, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Sunday, is now on his own in third on the all-time list for most match wins at Grand Slam events with 234 victories after passing Jimmy Connors.

He will face Argentine Diego Schwartzman for a semis spot, after the 11th seed staged a thrilling comeback to down sixth seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (0), 6-2.

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