MADRID – Sluggish and injured Serena Williams lost her third consecutive clay match to crash out of the Madrid Masters after pulling the plug while trailing 4-6 to Francesca Schiavone in the first round Monday.
The exit of the second seed leaves Williams in a precarious position without a victory on the dirt heading into the May 24 start of Roland Garros.
"After the first set I did not want to risk anymore. I'm hoping to be ready for Roland Garros," she insisted.
Williams, who also lost in Marbella and last week in Rome and has suffered with thigh and knee injuries, effectively stayed on court for 45 minutes to avoid a 75,000 fine which the WTA would have imposed for failing to play the new tournament.
The sanction would have been imposed had she pulled out of the event and then not shown up on site for essentially a public relations appearance under the rules.
The multimillionairess has already lost several hundred thousand dollars in year-end bonus pool money as a result of refusing to compete at Indian Wells last March.
"I don't know about you, but 75,000 is a lot of money to me," said the winner of more than two million dollars in prize money so far this season.
"I'm redecorating a house and 75,000 is my furniture budget, some stairs...
"I can't just go writing cheques for 75,000 in this economy," added the ten-time Grand Slam champion, a 24-million-dollar woman over the course of her career.
Williams insisted with some bravado that she would aim to play both singles and doubles at the French Open, starting a week from Sunday.
Williams has not won a match since April 2 in a Miami semi-final over her sister Venus.
French veteran Amelie Mauresmo claimed her first-round contest with a defeat of Ai Sugiyama 6-2, 6-4 and Daniela Hantuchova rallied in a comeback over Gisela Dulko 7-6 (9/7), 6-1.
Russian eighth seed Nadia Petrova reached the third round as she overhauled German Anna-Lena Groenefeld 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5).
On the men's side, French ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga added more misery this season for two-time Grand Slam winner Marat Safin, defeating the Russian 6-4, 7-5 with Safin now winless in four of his five clay matches this spring as he continues down the road to retirement.
Swiss Stan Wawrinka advanced over Italian Marco Crugnola 6-2, 6-0 while Spanish 12th seed David Ferrer gave home fans a thrill as he reached the second round over Argentine Guillermo Canas 6-2, 6-2.
British fourth seed Andy Murray learned the identity of his second-round opponent when Simone Bolelli beat Juan Chela 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).
American Mardy Fish, an Estoril quarter-finalist last week, earned his fourth win from seven spring clay matches, defeating Serb Janko Tipsarevic 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.
Florent Serra of France defeated veteran German Rainer Schuettler 6-2, 6-4 while Croatian Ivan Ljubicic advanced over Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-3, 6-2.