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Serena Williams loses at French Open; Federer withdraws

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United States Serena Williams reacts after missing a shot as she plays against Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina during their fourth round match on day 8, of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, Sunday, June 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PARIS – Serena Williams turns 40 in September. Roger Federer hits that milestone the month before. No one knows how many more French Open appearances each will make, and this year's tournament ended for both on Sunday.

Williams fell way behind and could not put together a comeback against a much younger and less-experienced opponent in the fourth round at Roland Garros, losing 6-3, 7-5 to Elena Rybakina — who wasn't even born when the American made her tournament debut in 1998.

Asked whether that might have been her last match at the clay-court major, Williams responded: “Yeah, I’m definitely not thinking about it at all. I’m definitely thinking just about other things, but not about that.”

Her defeat came hours after Federer withdrew, saying he needed to let his body recover ahead of Wimbledon after a long third-round victory that ended at nearly 1 a.m. on Sunday.

Wimbledon — which Federer has won eight times and Williams seven — begins June 28.

“I’m kind of excited to switch surfaces,” Williams said. “Historically I have done pretty well on grass.”

She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles; Federer has won 20. They are two of the sport's greatest and most popular players, so it was quite a blow to the tournament, its TV partners and tennis fans to see both gone from the French Open field one after the other — and a week after Naomi Osaka pulled out, citing a need for a mental health break.

Williams has won the French Open three times. But the American hasn’t been past the fourth round in Paris since she was the runner-up in 2016.