Maria Sharapova reaches French Open fourth round and will face Serena Williams

Tennis rivals Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will face off at the French Open

USA TODAY Tennis rivals Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will face off at the French Open

American Serena Williams' audacious attempt to win the French Open for a fourth time ended in crushing anti-climax on Monday as injury, rather than an old foe, forced the 36-year-old to admit defeat at Roland Garros.

Williams held a press conference where she explained that she was unable to serve due to an arm injury.

Having watched Williams surmount the rigors of pregnancy, childbirth and serious postpartum complications in the past 17 months, it's tempting to view a pectoral muscle issue as a relatively small speed bump.

The withdrawal means Sharapova is granted automatic passage to the quarterfinal at Roland-Garros, where she is aiming for her third French Open title and sixth Grand Slam in total.

She will next face either 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams or German 11th seed Julia Goerges.

"It's very hard because I love playing Maria", said the American.

You know, she's been playing, like I said, for over a year now.

Williams tried to play down the tag of favourite, given her lengthy absence after giving birth.

And then the book was a lot about me.

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-When you buy Tennis Channel Plus, your 12-month subscription gets you access to every ATP Masters 1000 tournament played outside the USA, and every round through the finals of WTA Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati. So it's just, like, I think it would be more shocking if I wasn't in tears. "I just started. So, I'm just really trying to get my bearings and trying to feel out where I am and see where I can go".

Simons said: "After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump on his [Los Angeles] golf course, and he said that Maria's shoulders were incredibly alluring".

"Any time you play against Serena you know what you're up against".

Sharapova and Serena have met 21 times, with the American leading the head-to-head record 19-2 after 18 consecutive wins dating back to 2004.

"Quite frankly, she's probably a favourite in this match, for sure", said Williams through a smile.

"It's something like dream come true to play on this court, it was my dream since childhood", said the 21-year-old Russian, who is seeded 14th.

"But how much mental scar tissue, how much baggage does Maria Sharapova carry with her on court".

Twice Wimbledon victor Petra Kvitova joined her Czech Fed Cup teammate Pliskova on the sidelines, losing to Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4) in a match originally scheduled for Friday.

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