PARIS • The biggest shock at the French Open yesterday was not an upset.
Minutes before Serena Williams' highly anticipated fourth-round clash against Maria Sharapova, the 23-time major singles champion withdrew with an arm injury.
It was the first time the 36-year-old has withdrawn midstream from a Grand Slam singles event.
"I'm beyond disappointed," three-time Roland Garros champion Williams told a press conference at her first Grand Slam since winning last year's Australian Open. She was also playing just her third tournament of the year after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia last September.
"I gave up so much - time with my daughter, time with my family. I put everything on the court all for this moment.
"So it's really difficult to be in the situation. I try to think positive and think of the bigger picture, the next events and the rest of the year."
She first felt a problem with her right pectoral muscle in her third-round match against Julia Gorges last Saturday and revealed yesterday that she could not serve.
DEFINING THE ANGUISH
I gave up so much - time with my daughter, time with my family. I put everything on the court all for this moment. So it's really difficult to be in the situation.
SERENA WILLIAMS, whose withdrawal before her much-awaited clash with Maria Sharapova gave the Russian a berth in the quarter-finals.
Williams and her sister, Venus, were also playing doubles at Roland Garros, losing a three-set match on Sunday night to Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
Williams tried various tapings and support systems to help the injury during the doubles loss on Sunday, but said that nothing helped enough to allow her to play on.
"I've never felt this in my life," she said. "This is so painful. I've pretty much had every (other) injury in the book."
The American added that she would stay in Paris for scans to find out how long she will be out of action. She was unable to say whether she would be fit for Wimbledon, which begins in four weeks.
"I'm going to continue to get better," added Williams, who enjoyed victories over Czech Kristyna Pliskova and No. 17 seed Ashleigh Barty earlier in the tournament. "I had such a wonderful performance in my first Grand Slam back."
Yesterday's match was to have been the first between Williams and Sharapova in more than two years. In the interim, Williams got married and Sharapova served a doping suspension.
Williams had defeated Sharapova 18 straight times, but the match had been expected to pack a bigger punch than most between a world No. 451 - Williams - and a 28th seed - Sharapova.
It had been the most eagerly awaited match of the tournament, coming just two days after Williams had blasted Sharapova's autobiography for being "100 per cent hearsay" when it came to references about her.
After the withdrawal, Sharapova, the French Open champion in 2012 and 2014, will face either 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza or Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.
Yesterday, world No. 1 Nadal moved a step closer to an 11th Roland Garros title by seeing off German Maximilian Marterer 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) to reach the quarter-finals.
Kevin Anderson, the sixth seed, and world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki were shocked yesterday by Diego Schwartzman 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-0), 6-2 and Daria Kasatkina 7-6, (7-5), 6-3 respectively.
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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