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Serena Williams pulls out

A LINGERING knee injury forced Serena Williams to withdraw from the Italian Open on Tuesday, one day before her scheduled second-round match against her sister Venus Williams.

Serena Williams 23-time Grand Slam singles champion

“I must withdraw from the Italian Open due to pain in my left knee,” Williams said in a statement provided by the WTA. “I will miss the fans and competition at one of my favorite tournaments. I’ll be concentrating on rehab and look forward to seeing you all at the French Open and next year in Rome.”

Williams, 37, has now pulled out of three consecutive tournaments after completing just one match. She withdrew before her second match at the Miami Open in March because of the same knee injury. Earlier that month in Indian Wells, Calif. Williams won a thrilling first match against Victoria Azarenka, and won the first three games in her next match against Garbiñe Muguruza before retiring when she was down, 3-6, 0-1, citing a viral illness.

Williams, who was one of the hosts of the Met Gala in New York last week, was in good spirits Monday after her 6-4, 6-2 first-round win over 64th-ranked Rebecca Peterson, whom Williams had also beaten in her lone match in Miami. “It felt good to be back in the match,” she said. “It’s been a while. I haven’t played a ton of matches this year. Not my choice, just by force. I really, really, actually desperately wanted to be on the tour and to be playing, but it hasn’t been able to work out.”

Williams was also undone by a physical issue at the Australian Open in January, rolling her ankle on her first of three match points when up by 5-1 in the third set of her quarterfinal against Karolina Pliskova.  –