Top-seed Ash Barty abruptly withdraws from French Open

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PARIS — Top-ranked Ash Barty was forced to retire from her second-round match at the French Open on Thursday because of an injury.

The 2019 champion trailed 6-1, 2-2 when she returned to her chair and signaled she was not able to continue against Polish rival Magda Linette on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The Australian started the match with her left thigh bandaged and it was immediately clear she could not move properly. Too slow to chase her opponent’s shots, she suffered in long rallies and struggled with her first serve.

Barty had called for a medical timeout at the end of the opening set, then briefly left the court for treatment. She stopped after Linette hit an ace. Barty then walked to the net to shake the 45th-ranked player’s hand.

Barty’s exit comes after the No.2 seed Naomi Osaka withdrew from the tournament with controversy brewing over her media boycott. Defending champ and clay court specialist Iga Swiatek is the favorite to take home the women’s title.

Dealing with a left hip problem, Barty had struggled through a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win against 70th-ranked American Bernarda Pera in the first round. She said afterward she was not fully healthy and would adopt a one-match-at-a-time approach.

Barty decided not to defend her title last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, choosing instead to remain home in Australia.

In the buildup to this French Open, she played 13 matches on clay, winning 11. Barty posted a record of 27-5 and won three singles titles before Roland Garros. But she was forced to retire in the quarterfinals in Rome in May because of an injury to her right arm.

After ending a four-match losing streak on clay in the previous round, last year’s runner-up Sofia Kenin advanced to the third round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Hailey Baptiste in a battle of Americans.

Kenin has had a tough start to the season. The 2020 Australian Open champion underwent an emergency appendectomy in Melbourne in February and her record was 7-8 entering the clay-court Grand Slam.

Fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina also progressed by defeating French Open debutant Ann Li of the United States 6-0, 6-4.

Svitolina played brilliantly in the opening set by combining deep shots from the baseline with clever play at the net and dropping only five points on her service games. She recovered from a blip early in the second set to win the last five games.

In the men’s draw, Rafael Nadal later faces Richard Gasquet on his 35th birthday. The 13-time champion is 16-0 against the Frenchman. Roger Federer is scheduled to take on 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, and top-ranked Novak Djokovic faces Pablo Cuevas.

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