PARIS (AP) — Serena Williams
turns 40 in September, and Roger Federer
turns 40 the month before. Neither knows how many more French Open
appearances they will make, and both finished this year's tournament on Sunday.
Williams fell behind early and couldn't recover against a much younger and less-experienced opponent in the fourth round of Roland Garros, losing 6-3, 7-5 to Elena Rybakina — who hadn't even been born when the American made her tournament debut in 1998.
After a long third-round victory that ended at nearly 1 a.m. on Sunday, Federer withdrew, claiming he needed to rest his body
Williams has won 23 Grand Slam
titles, and Federer has won 20. They are two of the sport's greatest and most popular players, so it was a huge blow to the tournament, its TV partners, and tennis fans
to see both players withdraw one after the other — and just a week after Naomi Osaka
pulled out, citing a mental health
Williams has won the French Open three times, but she hasn't advanced past the fourth round since finishing second in 2016.
Rybakina, a 21-year-old from Kazakhstan, is ranked 22nd in the world. This was Rybakina's seventh Grand Slam appearance, and she had never advanced past the second round before.
Rybakina hit big, flat serves against Williams, who had a heavy tape job on her right thigh. She dealt with, but managed to steady, her nerves, and even produced the occasional return winner off Williams’ fast and spectacularly gifted serve, breaking her five times, including in the next-to-last game.
“I am so happy with my match today; it was amazing,” Rybakina said. “Of course, I was nervous because I hadn’t served that well before, but I’m just happy that I just managed.”
Williams was 4-3 down in the second set when Rybakina sailed a forehand wide and was broken.
In the next game, Williams gave up the first point by failing to get out of the way of a flying
long shot from Rybakina near the baseline. Williams sighed and leaned over, resting and propping herself up with her racket.
With a semifinal berth on the line, Rybakina will now face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who defeated two-time Australian
Open champion Victoria Azarenka 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Paula Badosa will face Tamara Zidansek in the other quarterfinal on that side of the women
's draw; neither has advanced to this stage of a major tournament.
Next weekend, one of those four players will make his or her first Grand Slam final.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is still searching for his first major final, and he advanced to the quarterfinals of Roland Garros for the second year in a row by defeating 12th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
Tsitsipas will next face No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who has won six of their previous seven matches.
Medvedev is a two-time Grand Slam finalist (2019 U.S. Open and this year's Australian Open), but he was 0-4 in Paris until Sunday, when he beat No. 22 Cristian Garin 6-2, 6-1, 7-5.
Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press
and Steven Wine of the Associated Press in Miami