Serena withdraws before semi-final

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Serena Williams has pulled out of her semi-final with Li Na as a precaution due to a back problem. The American had beaten Flavia Pennetta in the last eight after the Italian retired, but has stressed she wants to get herself completely right ahead of the French Open next weekend.

“I had some problems with the lower back earlier week,” said Serena. “It was feeling a little stiff and I don’t think this is the right moment to force things. There is a huge schedule coming up and when a little pain you just want to compensate and I have had a long treatment for the last couple months. I just want to relax and get ready for next few months.

“I feel fine.  This is a good week to get better and I’m confident that I’ll be 100%. It’s just life and playing a lot and the body is just getting used to playing a lot of matches and that’s all.”

Serena’s withdrawal ends a 17-match winning sequence on clay and she added: “I feel my form is good and hopefully I will be able to do good and stay in form and do well.”

“I’m so sad and sorry I had to pull out of what has become my favourite tournament in Rome,” Serena later said on Twitter. “Everyone has become so nice here in Rome and the tournament director is amazing. I will be here next year for sure.”

Li will now play in Sunday’s final having not lost a set at Foro Italico all week.


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