American tennis player Serena Williams has withdrawn from the French Open, minutes before she was due on court to face Maria Sharapova in a much-anticipated fourth round showdown.

The 36-year-old 23-times Grand Slam champion, making a comeback after a maternity break, told a news conference she had suffered a pectoral muscle injury in her third round victory against Germany’s Julia Goerges.

“Unfortunately I’m having some issues with my pec muscle. Right now I can’t actually serve – it’s kind of hard to play,” she told a packed press room.

“I’m having an MRI (scan) tomorrow, I’m going to stay here to see the doctors and see as many specialists as I can.”

Williams had worked hard to get back in shape and was making her Grand Slam comeback at the French Open following the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia last September.

Despite starting the tournament with a notional ranking of 451 and having played only four matches this year, she played impressively in her three wins in Paris, beating seeds Ashleigh Barty and Goerges in rounds two and three.

However, yesterday she took part in a third round doubles match with sister Venus losing 6-4 6-7(4) 6-0 to the third-seeded pairing of Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Her clash against twice French Open champion Sharapova, who she has beaten 18 times in a row, had received huge pre-match billing and the American said she was “beyond disappointed” that she could not take to court.

“I gave up so much to time with my daughter and my family and put everything on court for this moment,” she said.

“I’m going to continue to get better. I had such a wonderful performance in my first Grand Slam back.”

Sharapova, herself making a comeback after missing the last two French Opens following a doping ban, will face Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals.

The Spaniard reached the last eight without breaking sweat when her Ukrainian opponent Lesia Tsurenko retired after two games.

Third seed Muguruza, bidding for a second title in Paris after her 2016 triumph, was 2-0 ahead when Tsurenko pulled out with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki and seventh-seeded Carloine Garcia were both beaten, but top seed Simona Halep eased through to the last eight where she’ll face Germany’s Angelique Kerber.

And in the men’s draw, Rafa Nadal extended his streak of consecutive completed sets won at the French Open to 37 in thrashing Maximilian Marterer 6-3 6-2 7-6(4) to storm into the quarter-finals.


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