World women’s number 1 Barty retires from French Open with hip injury

Hampered by a sore hip, Ash Barty withdrew from her second-round match at the French Open on Thursday, leaving the Grand Slam tournament on clay without one of the top three women in the standings.

The 2019 champion was down 6-1, 2-2 when she signaled she could not continue against Polish opponent Magda Linette at Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I was battling the pain, and it just got too intense, and like I said, it got unsafe,” Barty said of the injury that flared up during pre-tournament training.

In addition to Barty’s departure, No. 2 Naomi Osaka withdrew after the first round – saying she would be taking a break from competition for mental health reasons – and No. 3 Simona Halep withdrew before the tournament started due to a leg injury.

Leading up to this year’s French Open, Barty played 13 clay court games and won 11. She set a 27-5 record and won three Roland Garros singles titles. But due to an injury to her right arm, she had to retire in the quarterfinals in Rome in May. She said the injury had healed and didn’t bother her in Paris.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Barty said. “We’ve had such a brilliant clay court season, and to be a little unlucky with the timing more than anything, to have something acute happening over the weekend and just a little out of time against the clock disappointing.”

The Australian started the match with her left thigh bandaged and it was immediately apparent that she was not able to move properly. She was too slow to chase her opponent’s shots, wrestling in long rallies and her first serve.

Barty called for a medical timeout at the end of the opening set, then briefly left the field for treatment. She stopped after Linette hit an ace. Barty then walked to the net to shake hands with the 45th player.

Barty had already dealt with her hip problem in the first round and had struggled through a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory over 70th-seeded Bernarda Pera.

“We did everything we could, absolutely everything we could, to give myself a chance,” said Barty. “It was a minor miracle that we were able to get on track that first lap. Again, today it was not better and it got worse again.”

Barty decided not to defend her title last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, opting to stay at home in Australia.

After ending a four-game losing streak on clay in the previous round, 2020 runner-up Sofia Kenin advanced to the third round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Hailey Baptiste.

Kenin had a difficult start to the season. The 2020 Australian Open champion from the United States underwent appendectomy in Melbourne in February and her record was 7-8 when entering the gravel Grand Slam.

Fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina also advanced, beating United States’ Ann Li 6-0, 6-4.

Svitolina combined deep shots from the baseline with clever play at the net in the first set, leaving only five points on her serve. She recovered from a hiccup early in the second set and won the last five games.

In the men’s race, Rafael Nadal will face Richard Gasquet later on his 35th birthday. The 13-time champion is 16-0 ahead of the Frenchman. Roger Federer will take on 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic and the best Novak Djokovic will take on Pablo Cuevas.

(AP)

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