Exclusive – Mouratoglou on Serena: “There was no other option”

Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou tells Tennis Majors’ new show “French Insider” that the American to pull out of Roland-Garros because she could not risk further injury.

October 1, 2020

The withdrawal of Serena Williams from Roland-Garros on Wednesday was a huge shock and almost certainly means a premature end to the season for the 39-year-old.

But in an exclusive interview on Tennis Majors’ new show and podcast “The French Insider”, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou explained that the 23-time Grand Slam champion had “no other option” but to pull out, with her Achilles tendon too inflamed to risk further and more serious injury.

“It was an extremely difficult decision to make, but we felt there was no other option and at some point we had to accept that her body would give us the answer,” Mouratoglou told French Insider.

Not enough time to recover

Mouratoglou said the injury first flared in the semi-finals of the US Open, when she was beaten by Victoria Azarenka and that the quick turnaround between the US Open and Roland-Garros had not given them enough time to let it fully heal.

“We had only one week to do all the treatment, because the second week we had to start practice to be ready for Roland-Garros,” he said. “It was not enough, the inflammation was big. It was more or less under control even though it was painful but when she played her first match at Roland-Garros the pain went to the next level.”

Mouratoglou said he could see at practice before her scheduled second-round match with Tsvetana Pironkova that her movement was affected and when Williams spoke to him after the warm-up, he knew it was time to pull out.

Risk not worth taking

“Ideally, it would stay like that until the end of the tournament and staying like that was already too much, but the most probable evolution was that probably the inflammation would continue to grow because the matches are very aggressive for the Achilles tendon,” he said. “At some point you feel like she will not be able to win the tournament and she takes a risk that’s not worth taking. She would 100 percent take the risk to have something bad if she think she could win the tournament but if she’s too limited in her movement, then it’s impossible to win a tennis match and it doesn’t make sense.

“So we felt it was the only possible decision. At her age, taking the risk to break an Achilles tendon is not reasonable and plus, you feel like she’s not able to win the tournament not moving normally. At some point it’s better to stop and accept that the body says stop. Take the four, five, six weeks to heal, which will be necessary, then come back to practice and be ready for 2021. It’s sad but we have to accept it.”

Serena Williams, Roland-Garros, 2020

Mouratoglou said Williams knows that things are much more difficult at the age of 39, while she is also juggling family life. But he said the American still wants to achieve big things as she looks to equal and overtake the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles held by Margaret Court.

“What I admire the most is that she still has this motivation, whatever setback happens, she’s still there, she still believes, she still wants to do it,” he said. “It’s great, but it’s tough. But the top level in sport is very cruel, top players have the ability to accept and come back.”

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