Serena Williams announced this morning that she was pulling out of the French Open due to an injury in her chest muscle that made her unable to serve. "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 in a press conference today.
This was supposed to be Williams' first major match back since giving birth last September, and she was set to play Maria Sharapova. On Twitter, a few people insinuated that Williams withdrew because she was afraid to lose, or that Sharapova somehow "made" her quit. But Williams has been clear that her exit was due to a painful injury in her pectoral muscle that was aggravated during a match yesterday. Williams will be getting an MRI tomorrow and consulting with a doctor to figure out what's wrong. "It's extremely disappointing," she said about the injury.
This wasn't a copout, though. In fact, Williams has said that she loves playing Sharapova, because "her game matches so well against mine." Some commentators were calling this the "most-anticipated match of the women's tournament," because despite the fact that Williams has beat Sharapova in 19 of their 21 matches over the past 14 years, there's been a longtime, lopsided "feud" between the women. Now that Williams is out, the rules are that Sharapova will advance to the quarterfinals, but mostly it has people wondering how this impacts the 14-year-old rivalry.
To be fair, these women do have history. Sharapova wrote a memoir last year that mentioned Williams, like, a lot. Specifically, Sharapova said that after she beat Williams at Wimbledon in 2004, she saw her crying in the locker room. "I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon. I think she hated me for taking something that she believed belonged to her. I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment. But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She's never forgiven me for it," she wrote.
When asked about the book at a press conference ahead of today's match, Williams said that the stories of animosity were "100% hearsay" and disappointing. She also said that she didn't have any negative feelings toward Sharapova. "Especially having a daughter, I feel negativity is taught," Williams said. "Women, especially, should bring each other up." In other words: there's no beef.
But then, in the same press conference, a reporter brought up something that Donald Trump apparently said about Maria's "incredibly alluring" shoulders. "[Trump] came up with this incredible analysis: that you were intimidated by her super model good looks," Bill Simons, a reporter for Inside Tennis said. "My question is: have you ever been intimidated by anyone else on a tennis court, and what are your thoughts about that occurrence?" Williams responded, saying, "I honestly don't have any thoughts about that. I can't say I have been intimidated by anyone. That's all. That's it." The exchange went viral on Twitter, and Williams' husband Alexis Ohanian replied saying, "Pro-tip: wait at least another 14 more years before asking another question."
Who knows if the reporter was trying to purposefully get under Williams' skin by mentioning Trump, but it makes sense why people are obsessed with the narrative between the two competitors. We can't resist a Nancy Kerrigan versus Tonya Harding-level rivalry, and we also love a comeback story. This story had the makings of both, but ultimately, we'll have to wait and see what the next chapter entails.
On Instagram this morning, Williams shared a photo with the caption: "You always live to fight for another chance. I’ve done a lot of fighting and this is just the beginning."