Top seed Ashleigh Barty was forced to retire in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open through injury. The World No. 1 led 17-year-old Coco Gauff 6-4 2-1, in a rain-interrupted match.
Both players were on serve in the second set when it started pouring again. Barty – spotting a tape on her right arm all afternoon – had a quick chat with the physio before deciding to retire. It is Barty’s first retirement since Strasbourg in 2018.
The nature of Barty’s injury is the right arm, despite having another strapping on her left leg. Barty’s withdrawal means that Coco Gauff has now advanced into the biggest WTA semifinal of her career, and her first semifinal on clay. The American teenager is also guaranteed to crack the top 30 for the first time in her embryonic career, which will earn her a seed in Paris.
Official reason for Ash Barty’s retirement: Right arm injury.
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 14, 2021
In a tournament where a host of top seeds fell like flies, Barty avoided the upset list, but joins the rolling parade of injured players at the Italian Open that includes Simona Halep and Jennifer Brady.
Unfortunately an ultrasound has revealed that I have a tear in my left calf. I will get an MRI tomorrow to understand the injury in more detail, but at the moment we are unsure of recovery time. I’m so disappointed to end my tournament in Rome like this… pic.twitter.com/Fx58WWg796
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) May 12, 2021
Halep suffered a tear on her left calf midway through her match against Angelique Kerber a couple of days ago and is unsure of how long the injury will take to heal before she competes again. The Romanian and Barty have won two of the last three editions of the French Open.
The timing of this injury could be damaging for Barty’s hopes in Paris. She had been in fine form, and it almost felt she had the entire tour at the palm of her hand on arrival in Rome. Her record on red clay was remarkable. She won 18 out of her last 19 matches on the surface with the only stain coming in Madrid.
It will be a nervous wait for the Aussie as she is set to undergo further scans and tests in the upcoming days to determine the extent of the damage on her right arm and elbow. But Barty remains confident and hopeful of a return to action on Parisian dirt.
Barty said, “The pain was becoming too severe so it was important to listen to my body and do the right thing knowing we have a Slam.”
She added, “It’s something I have had to manage over my career. It’s an injury that began when I was quite young when I was 15 or 16 years old. It just pops up every now and again.
“I think the conditions today certainly didn’t help that, but I mean, we’re confident we know how to manage it, so we just kind of move on and know that the right decision was made today, as hard as it is.”
Should the injury rule her out of the French Open which is set to begin in less than ten, it means she will miss the opportunity to compete at Roland Garros for the second straight year.
Technically, Barty hasn’t defended the French Open title she won in 2019. She missed last year’s edition due to caution on travel in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, she shut down her season altogether in 2020 at the end of February after tennis was suspended for six months.
Main Photo from Getty.