SEOUL • Chung Hyeon, the rising South Korean talent tipped as one of the few men in the draw capable of beating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros this year, was forced to pull out of the French Open yesterday with an ankle injury.
The Australian Open semi-finalist said he had been carrying the problem through the clay season and would need significant time on the sidelines.
"Unfortunately I had to withdraw from Lyon yesterday and now Roland Garros," the 21-year-old wrote on his Twitter account.
"I have been struggling with an ankle injury during the entire clay season. An MRI scan has revealed that I have build-up of fluid in the ankle joint which might require a small procedure and then an extended period of rest."
At 1.85m and 83kg, he exhibits the same defensive solidity as his idol Novak Djokovic, with an athleticism and power that has earned comparisons with 10-time French Open champion Nadal.
He gave Asian tennis a lift by reaching the last four at Melbourne Park in January before that campaign came to an end when he retired injured due to blisters against eventual champion Roger Federer.
Chung, who rose to a career high of world No. 19 last month, has missed several tournaments since due to physical ailments. He did make the last four on clay at the Munich Open before losing to world No. 3 Alexander Zverev.
One player raring to go in Paris is Serena Williams, set to compete in her first Grand Slam since giving birth last September.
The 36-year-old American will be unseeded and could face any of the top-ranked players in the first or second round. But, even with her lack of match practice, few analysts were ruling her out.
"At the end of the day, she knows how to play tennis. It's more about fitness, getting the cardio up, the first step," said seven-time French Open champion Chris Evert, an analyst for broadcaster ESPN.
"We know she will have the fire, the fight and the heart and the drive but you don't know about seven matches in a row to keep that level up. That's what it's going to take."
Jim Courier, who twice won the title at Roland Garros, also believes Williams can defy logic. He said: "She lacks match play and will be vulnerable in the early rounds as she seeks form and confidence. If she does reach the second week she will be hard to stop."