ROME - Defending champion Serena Williams of the United States withdrew from the Italian Open on Thursday citing an elbow injury, meaning the tournament will proceed without either of the Williams sisters.
Shortly after sister Venus was swept aside 6-2, 6-1 by Romanian second seed Simona Halep, top seed Williams announced her withdrawal prior to her third round match with fellow American Christina McHale.
Williams, who exited the Madrid Masters at the semi-final stage last week, said the decision was made after consideration that not stopping could harm her chances at the French Open, or even Wimbledon.
"It wasn't an easy decision, I talked with my coach and he said it wouldn't be smart for me to play," said Williams.
"We had to make the right decisions for the future, not for now.
"If I continue to play it could really hurt my chances, not just for Roland Garros but for Wimbledon." Williams, who said she could not offer a full diagnosis of the knock as she had yet to undergo full medical tests, said her elbow injury started in Madrid.
"I wasn't hitting my shots the way I wanted to," she added.
"When you're injured you don't play with much confidence. It's so important to have that when you're going up against any player."
Asked if her decision could harm her chances at the French Open, where she crashed out at the first round last year having triumphed in Rome, Williams added: "I don't think it will. If I continue to play it could get worse and I cold have a situation on my hands."
Williams was the second big name to pull out of the tournament before the quarter-final stages.
Earlier Thursday Britain's world number three Andy Murray - who stunned clay court king Rafael Nadal to win in Madrid last week - withdrew citing fatigue.