Serena Williams withdraws from US Open with hamstring not healed

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the US Open, marking another major setback in a difficult season.

Williams, who turns 40 next month, has not competed since she was forced to withdraw from her first-round match at Wimbledon after falling on the slippery grass courts against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, tearing her right hamstring and then leaving the court in tears.

“After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the US Open to allow my body to heal completely from a torn hamstring,” Williams said in a statement on Instagram.

“New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world and one of my favorite places to play – I’ll miss seeing the fans but will be cheering everyone on from afar. Thank you for your continued support and love. I’ll see you soon.”

After starting 2021 positively by reaching the semi-final of the Australian Open, eventually losing against Naomi Osaka after beating two top-10 opponents, Williams has endured a harsh year. She struggled badly in the clay season after a lengthy hiatus.

Since her return from maternity leave, the second half of the season has afforded Williams her best chances of winning her elusive 24th grand slam title. Ahead of Wimbledon she had reached four finals and one semi-final in her last five appearances at Wimbledon and the US Open. However, Williams was one of many who slipped on the grass courts at Wimbledon in the first week and she is still suffering from her subsequent injury.

Unable to defend the points she accrued in her run to the 2019 Wimbledon final, Williams is now ranked 22nd. Having also reached the US Open final in 2019, losing against Bianca Andreescu, Williams may now fall out of the top 40. By the 2022 Australian Open, the next grand slam tournament on the calendar, it will be five years since Williams’s last grand slam title at the 2017 Australian Open.

With the earlier withdrawals from the 40-year-old Roger Federer, who will undergo another knee surgery, and the 35-year-old Rafael Nadal, who has a chronic foot injury, Williams’s withdrawal means that this year’s US Open will be the first grand slam tournament without any of the trio since the 1997 US Open.

Britain’s Emma Raducanu, who had such a memorable Wimbledon before her dramatic exit in the fourth round, breezed into the second round of qualifying for the US Open with a comfortable victory against Bibiane Schoofs, with the 18-year-old needing just over an hour to defeat the Dutch player 6-1 6-2.

Players must successfully come through three rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw, which begins on 30 August.

Francesca Jones won her first match on Tuesday, with the Briton defeating the American Elizabeth Mandlik 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, while Katie Boulter also progressed on Wednesday beating Gabriella Price 6-3, 6-2.