ROME – Serena Williams announced on Tuesday her withdrawal from the Italian Open, which she has won four times, due to injury.
The 37-year-old, who made a victorious debut in the 2019 Italian Open by defeating Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, was due to play her elder sister Venus in the second round.
“I must withdraw from the Italian Open due to pain in my left knee,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I will miss the fans and competition at one of my favorite tournaments.
“I will be concentrating on rehab and look forward to seeing you all at the French Open and next year in Rome.”
The United States star made the last-16, where she was to take on either her compatriot Sloane Stephens, seventh seed, or Briton Johann Konta.
Since winning the 2017 Australian Open while she was pregnant, Serena has been unable to hoist a title after coming back from maternity leave.
On her return to competitive tennis in 2018, she had ups and downs, losing to Japan’s Naomi Osaka in the Miami Open first round in straight sets, but reaching the Wimbledon and US Open finals where she lost to Germany’s Angelique Kerber and Osaka respectively.
Following her defeat to Osaka in the US Open final, Serena cut short her season which saw her miss the Australian Open and the entire clay season except for the French Open, where she withdrew before a highly anticipated round of 16 clash against Maria Sharapova of Russia.
Serena has managed to make only three tournament appearances this season, losing in the Australian Open quarterfinals to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and then had to retire from Indian Wells round of 32.
She also was forced to pull out of the Miami Open round of 32 before taking on China’s Qiang Wang due to a knee issue.
Serena is not the only former world No. 1 to withdraw from the 2019 Italian Open, as Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark had to pull out of a first-round clash against Danielle Collins of the United States after losing the first set 7-6 (7-5).
Collins is scheduled to take on Spaniard Garbiñe Muguruza in the second round.