French Open: Injured Ashleigh Barty makes 'heartbreaking' second round exit

World No 1 and 2019 champion forced to retire with injury against Magda Linette

Ashleigh Barty and Magda Linette greet each other at the net after Barty retired from their French Open second-round match. EPA
Ashleigh Barty and Magda Linette greet each other at the net after Barty retired from their French Open second-round match. EPA

Ashleigh Barty made a "heartbreaking" exit from the French Open on Thursday after the world No 1 was forced to retire from her second-round match.

Trailing Poland's Magda Linette 6-1, 2-2 and having called out the trainer following the first set, Barty decided she could no longer continue due to a troublesome thigh injury.

The French Open is now without the top two seeds following Naomi Osaka's decision to withdraw from the tournament following a row over her decision to boycott post-match media duties citing mental health concerns.

Despite Osaka being the reigning US and Australian Open champion, Barty's departure is arguably more significant in terms of leaving the Roland Garros draw wide open.

While Osaka has traditionally struggled on clay, Barty was one of the hot favourites for the title in Paris. The 2019 French Open champion entered the Grand Slam in fine form, winning the Stuttgart Open title and reaching the Italian Open final during the European claycourt swing.

With world No 3 and former champion Simona Halep absent with her own injury issues, Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka is the highest-ranked player remaining in the draw.

Barty had also struggled with the injury during her opening win and later said she suffered a flare-up through her left hip during the weekend.

"It's heartbreaking," Barty said. "We have had such a brilliant claycourt season, and to get a little bit unlucky with timing more than anything to have something acute happen over the weekend and just run out of time is disappointing.

"It won't take away the brilliant three months that we have had, as much as it hurts right now."

Barty, who, opted against defending her title last year over Covid-19 related concerns had faced problems with her movement on court on Tuesday against Bernarda Pera. But her physical condition improved against the American after receiving medical attention before the deciding set.

The top-seeded Australian called the trainer on court once again on Thursday after the first set, which she lost in just 27 minutes, hoping to be able to play on after receiving help.

Barty returned to play four more games on Court Philippe Chatrier before shaking hands.

"It was a small miracle that we were able to get on court for that first round. Again, today it was no better and getting worse again," she said, adding that she hoped to be fit for Wimbledon, which starts on June 28.

"I just tried to give myself a chance and see how it felt. Obviously, practising we've had our restrictions and essentially tried to stay as fresh as possible and not aggravate it in any way, but in a match that's unavoidable at times.

"Yeah, it got worse today and it was becoming at the stage where it was unsafe."

Updated: June 3, 2021 06:36 PM

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