“It showed that her injury had partially healed, but not totally, and in a way that was very insufficient for her to be able to move,” he said in an interview with Tennis Majors, a website in which both he and Williams are investors. “When you are 20 days away from a major tournament and you haven’t sprinted for five or six weeks, you know that you are off to a bad start.”
Mouratoglou said he traveled to Florida to join Williams and the rest of her team several weeks ago. “She did all she could do: daily therapy and the fitness training she could manage in order to lose as little time as possible,” he said. “At one point, she could hit the ball without moving, really not moving. That lasted two weeks. Last week, she started a bit of restricted movement, but with pain that made it clear she could not move like a normal tennis player. We did our best to not overload her leg. But despite all of that, she is not able to run today. If she runs with pain, that means there is a real danger of aggravating the injury. That also means she can’t train at 100 percent. But the most important thing is not that she isn’t ready but that if she plays, she is risking her future.”
Williams’s announcement leaves the U.S. Open without three of the sport’s biggest stars. Roger Federer, 40, and Rafael Nadal, 35, have withdrawn and ended their 2021 seasons because of injuries. This is the first time since 1997 — nearly a quarter-century ago — that the U.S. Open — or any Grand Slam tournament — will be played without at least one of the three.
End of an era? It certainly appears that way, although Martina Navratilova, the former No. 1 who is now a Tennis Channel analyst, believes it may not be the end of all three players’ triumphs on the court.
“I think Rafa has a much better chance of getting healthy, and he’s younger also,” Navratilova said on Wednesday. “If the foot heals up, he’ll be good to go. But with Roger and Serena, I think they’ll still play. I don’t think we will never see them play a match again, but I just don’t know what level they can get to.”
Williams, like Federer and Nadal, is one of the greatest champions in tennis history. She has often overpowered the opposition with her intimidating serve and returns. But her chances of winning a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title appear increasingly slim. She will turn 40 in September, and her ranking has slipped out of the top 20.