Serena Williams withdraws ahead of Sharapova showdown

"It was not that easy, she is a tough opponent", said Halep, who is chasing her maiden Grand Slam title.

Romanian Halep, twice a runner-up at Roland Garros, started slowly but once she found her groove, there was nothing the 16th-seed Mertens could do to avoid a one-sided defeat.

"I was looking forward to my match against Serena today and am disappointed that she had to withdraw", the 28th seed said. "I think it's these kind of new situations that she'll go home and learn a lot about how she is feeling", Clijsters added.

Williams was playing in her first grand slam since giving birth to her first child last September, dropping just one set on her way to reaching the last 16 in the French capital.

But she secured a far more straightforward passage into round four with a 6-2 6-1 victory in just 59 minutes.

The scene had been set for Williams in her "superhero" catsuit to take on Russian ice queen Maria Sharapova in a fourth-round clash that had assumed top billing.

She stunned the world in 2004, when, as a 17-year-old kid, she defeated the favourite Serena Williams for the Wimbledon crown, and rocketed to superstardom. "So it's just, like, I think it would be more shocking if I wasn't in tears", she said.

The Belgian believes Williams can still add to her Grand Slam collection, though.

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

"So I don't really know how to manage it yet".

Serena Williams is dropping out of the French Open with an injury.

Williams paid the price of contesting six singles and doubles matches in seven days after just four matches in the previous 16 months following childbirth a year ago. "So it's really hard to be in this situation, but I always. try to think positive and just think of the bigger picture and hopefully the next events and the rest of the year".

"And I have made every sacrifice that I could".

"Physically I'm doing great".

Williams' voice quivered as she said she can't serve because of a problem with her tight pectoral muscle. I sacrificed so much to be at this event. "So I thought it was a flawless opportunity for me to kind of see how I would be and how I would go in that".

  • Steve Townsend