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French Open: world No 1 Ash Barty retires from tournament with hip injury

Ashleigh Barty will play no further part in Roland Garros after being forced to retire from her second-round match with a left hip injury. The top seed, who was competing in Paris for the first time since she won her first grand slam title there in 2019, retired while trailing 6-1, 2-2 against Magda Linette after taking to the court with the pre-existing injury.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Barty. “We have had such a brilliant clay court season, and to kind of get a little bit unlucky with timing more than anything, to have something kind of acute happen over the weekend and just kind of run out of time against the clock is disappointing. It won’t take away the brilliant three months that we have had, as much as it hurts right now.”

Barty had returned to Paris in some of the best form of her career, but there remained question marks over whether her large recent workload had taken its toll on her body. Between her return to competition abroad at the Miami Open in March and Rome in mid-May, she played five tournaments with just one week of rest. Her consistency has been remarkable and she has compiled a 20-3 record during that period, marking her as a tournament favourite, but it had already come at a cost.

Two weeks ago, Barty retired from her quarter-final at the Italian Open with a right arm injury and she has had her thigh strapped in recent matches. But her body had healed by the time she arrived in Paris and her hopes were high as she entered the tournament. Instead, during the weekend on the eve of the tournament, Barty hurt her hip in “an acute incident” as she landed while serving.

“Something that I’ve never experienced before, even chatting with my physio, not something she has seen regularly either,” she said. “So we’ve been consulting with people all over the world to try and give us some insight into what the best ways to manage it are, to handle it, and I’m confident we do have a plan. It’s just that we ran out of time here.”

It was clear from early in her opening round that Barty’s movement and serve were compromised, but her volatile opponent Bernarda Pera took large cuts at the ball and provided enough unforced errors – 49 – to help Barty survive her first round. Linette, ranked 45th, is a tidier and more resourceful player and she handled the situation extremely well, manoeuvering the world No 1 around the court while offering just six unforced errors. She closed off the first set with a drop shot that Barty did not bother to chase.

While Linette thrived, the limitations in Barty’s game as a consequence of her injury became even more clear. Her biggest struggle was on serve where was unable to fully drive upwards with her legs, instead relying on her arm to generate power in her serve.

She attempted to compensate for her injury by attacking as early as possible, committing 18 unforced errors in her short time on court. After taking an off-court medical timeout following the first set, she pulled the plug early in the second set after feeling that the pain was too severe and the injury had become “unsafe”.

After such a difficult week at a tournament so dear to her, Barty will now strive to recover swiftly in order to be ready for the grass season, her favourite time of the year, two years since she last competed on her best surface. A longer period on the sidelines would only augment her heartbreak.

“It’s disappointing to end like this,” said Barty. “I’ve had my fair share of tears this week. It’s all good. Everything happens for a reason. There will be a silver lining in this eventually. Once I find out what that is it’ll make me feel a little bit better, but it will be there I’m sure.”

Meanwhile, an intense and fit Sloane Stephens took a clear step in the direction of a potential resurgence as the 2018 finalist produced a quality performance to upset ninth seed Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-1. The defending champion Iga Swiatek continued to dismantle all opposition as she beat Rebecca Peterson 6-1, 6-1. Also through were fourth seed Sofia Kenin, who saw off Hailey Baptiste 7-5, 6-3. In the absence of Barty, Elina Svitolina is now the highest seed in the top quarter and she safely reached the third round with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Ann Li.