• Internazionali BNL d'Italia

Serena joins growing injury list ahead of French Open

ESPN staff
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Serena Williams plays a backhand © PA Photos
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Serena Williams insists she will be fit for the French Open after pulling out of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia with a back injury.

Williams, who is on a 17-match unbeaten run after winning titles in Charleston and Madrid, had been scheduled to play Roland Garros champion Li Na in the semi-finals in Rome, but confirmed her withdrawal on the morning of the match.

However, she insisted the move was purely precautionary and remains confident she will be ready for the second grand slam of the year, which begins next Sunday.

"It was feeling a little stiff and I don't think this is the right moment to force [it]," she said. "I just want to relax and get ready for the next few months. This is a good week to get better and I'm confident that I'll be 100 percent."

Li will now receive free passage through to the final, where she will meet defending champion Maria Sharapova.

World No. 2 Sharapova booked her place in the final with a 6-3 6-4 win over Angelique Kerber. The Russian readily admits that clay is not her strongest surface, but with a number of her rivals struggling with injuries, she will have one eye on completing a career Grand Slam at Roland Garros.

Williams' withdrawal comes after world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki both pulled out of the event with injury concerns less than a fortnight before the clay-court major.

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