This year’s U.S. Open will be without plenty of big names, as Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, and Rafael Nadal will all be skipping out on the festivities at Flushing Meadows, where the national championship is set to begin on Monday. However, I regret to inform you that there’s another tennis legend who be competing at the annual event, and that’s Serena Williams.
On Wednesday, the 23-time Grand Slam champion made the announcement on Instagram, citing her need to recover from a torn hamstring, per ESPN.
“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,” she wrote. “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 from afar.
“Thank you for your continued support and love. I’ll see you soon.”
As New York Times writer Ben Rothenberg noted, the 20201 U.S. Open signals “the end of an era,” as it will be the first Grand Slam event without Williams, Nadal, or Federer in the main singles draw since the 1997 U.S. Open.
Additionally, Williams, who turns 40 in September, has yet to compete since her tearful exit at Wimbledon in June. During the first set of her first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, the four-time Olympic gold medalist suffered a gruesome right leg injury.
“I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg,” Williams wrote in a statement on Instagram after declining to speak to reporters following her loss. “My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on centre court so meaningful. Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on—and off—the court meant the world to me.”
Serena’s withdrawal follows the announcement that competitors at the U.S. Open will now be offered access to licensed mental health providers and quiet rooms as part of a new initiative put in place by the U.S. Tennis Association.
According to Yahoo Sports, these efforts are to “ensure that a comprehensive and holistic approach will be taken with all aspects of player health, including mental health.”
“Our goal is to make mental health services as readily available to athletes as services for a sprained ankle—and with no stigma attached,” Dr. Brian Hainline, USTA’s first vice president, said. “We will provide an environment that fosters wellness while providing the necessary resources to readily allow mental health care seeking.”
Naomi Osaka’s decision to pull out of the French Open in May citing mental health concerns likely played a clear role in the USTA’s decision to prioritize the emotional and psychological well-being of its competitors, and while it’s a step in the right direction, it’s unfortunate that Williams will be unable to take advantage of these services or compete in what might very well be one of her last events.