INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Serena Williams has withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open with a right knee injury. Williams was scheduled to play No. 3 Simona Halep in the second semifinal on Friday night. Halep received a walkover into the final, where she will play Jelena Jankovic, after the Serb defeated Sabine Lisicki 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 to advance to her second Indian Wells final.
Williams posted the news of her withdrawal on Instagram.
"I was practicing two days ago and I felt a really, really sharp pain in my knee," Williams said in an ESPN interview. "I tried staying positive. This morning it was difficult for me to even bend my knee and I thought 'ok if I can't even bend my knee then be smart about it.'
Williams described the injury as a slight sprain of her quadriceps tendon. "I think I was at a point today where I could have made it worse, because I would have probably done a lot of compensation, and then you start having problems with other parts of your body and other areas of your body," Williams told reporters. "Then you get into long-term problems. I think weighing all that together, it just wasn't a good opportunity for me to play."
She is the defending champion of the Miami Open, a Premier mandatory tournament that begins next week, but has yet to make a decision if she will play.
This year marked the first time Serena played the tournament in Indian Wells since 2001, when she was booed on court. She was set to play her sister Venus in the semifinal that year when Venus withdrew before the match due to a knee injury. The crowd booed at the announcement and the ill will carried on to Saturday's final against Kim Clijsters. Fans booed Venus and father Richard Williams as they took their seats in the player's box and cheered Serena's errors. Serena went on to win the title against Clijsters and the sisters vowed never to return to the tournament.
On Friday night, Serena dismissed any comparison of the two withdrawals. "I don't make anything of it," she said. "I feel that was 14 years ago and this is now. I did the best that I could at this event, and I really am happy to have put a lot of that behind me."
Serena announced she would end her boycott of the tournament in February and make her return for the first time in 13 years. In her opening match last Friday she was greeted by a prolonged standing ovation and the support of the crowd has been evident throughout her run to the semifinals. Asked whether she intends to return to the tournament next year, Williams was unequivocal. "I think it's going to be a must."