Another dramatic day at Roland Garros found Serena Williams withdrawing from the tournament with a damaged Achilles tendon, while a play-acting row erupted between two clay-court maestros on Court Simonne-Mathieu.
Fifth seed Kiki Bertens left Paris’s new “greenhouse court” in a wheelchair after suffering repeated cramps, which she later attributed to tension.
But her opponent – former world No 5 Sara Errani, of Italy – thought Bertens was inventing the whole thing. Errani openly mocked Bertens at one point, grabbing her own ankle and wincing theatrically.
She also refused to touch rackets at the end and shouted “Vaffanculo” – Italian for “f--- off” – at the top of her voice as she marched off the court.
As for Bertens, she sat and sobbed into her towel for a minute or two, before medical staff arrived with the wheelchair.
“I said, ‘OK, no, I’m going to walk’,” she explained afterwards. “And then my whole left leg started cramping. So they [the physios] were like, ‘No, you’re going to sit down and we ride you off’.”
In her own interview, Errani showed no hint of contrition. “I don’t like – I don’t know how to say in English – you know, when somebody joking on you,” she said. “One hour she’s injury, then she run like never. She go out of the court on the chair, and now she’s in the locker perfect, in the restaurant. Then after the people say to me that I’m unfair person. Is funny for me these things.”
This weird encounter gained an extra dimension from Errani’s notoriously dysfunctional serve, which delivered 14 double-faults. She had the yips on her ball toss, losing a first serve at one stage after a couple of code violations for slow play, and eventually resorting to serving underarm. In all, there were an extraordinary 24 breaks of serve in Bertens’s 7-6, 3-6, 9-7 victory.
Having saved a match point late in that third set, Bertens was contrastingly magnanimous in her response to Errani’s name-calling. “It’s not nice to hear,” she said, “but I don’t want to take it too personal because I know she’s frustrated with herself.
As for the 60 ball-tosses that Errani failed to hit, Bertens said: “I think that’s more annoying for her than it is for me.”
Earlier, Williams had said that she would need four to six weeks of rest to recover from the Achilles injury she sustained during her US Open quarter-final against Victoria Azarenka, and which left her struggling to walk at some stages of Monday’s first-round win over Kristie Ahn in Paris.
She acknowledged that she is unlikely to play against this season, but emphasised that she would resume her quest for a 24th major title in 2021.
“I love playing tennis,” said Williams, whose withdrawal left the recent US Open quarter-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova with a walkover.
“And I’m pretty good at it still, so until I feel that I’m not good at it, then I’ll be, like, ‘OK.’ And I’m so close to some things, so I feel like I’m almost there. I think that’s what keeps me going.”