Australia’s world no. 1 Ash Barty appeared to be heading towards another semifinal in the 2021 season when she surprised her opponent by retiring from the match at 6-4, 2-1 due to a right arm injury.
“When she called the physio, I mean, I knew she had her leg taped before the match, but I think she always has that taped… When she came up to me, I was shocked. I didn’t know what to make of it, just because I didn’t feel like there was anything going on,” Gauff said.
“It’s not a way you want to win a match. At the end when she told me she was retiring, forfeiting or retiring the match… Obviously I felt for her, but when you have the chance to play the No. 1 player in the world, it’s not a good feeling to win this way.
“I send the best well wishes, and hopefully she can get well before the French Open.”
The injury is one that flares up from time to time and goes back to when Barty was 15 or 16.
“It became worse while we were playing,” Barty said of the pain in her arm. “So I think that’s the challenging thing is to make the decision to stop. It’s never nice. It’s the thing that I hate the most is not being able to finish a tennis match.
“But the pain was becoming too severe, so it was important that I listen to my body and of course try and do the right thing, knowing that we have a Grand Slam in two weeks’ time.”
“I hate withdrawing. I hate pulling out of a match halfway through. It’s not in my makeup, not what I like to do, but it was really important today that I listen to what my body was telling me to make sure that in a couple weeks’ time we’re good to go,” Barty said.
“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.”
The meeting between Barty and Gauff was the first head to head between the players.
Barty opened the serving in a match that started under grey skies and with light rain falling.
Straight away Barty was under pressure as she fell behind 0-40. A forehand winner saved one break point. An unforced error on a backhand saved the next.
Barty was back to deuce after going on the attack and forcing an error from Gauff. A shot just over the baseline and it was Ad.
A lucky net cord from Gauff and it was deuce again. Barty would eventually hold.
Barty had an early break point however an Ace from Gauff saved that.
In the next game Gauff again earned some break points, moving to 15-40 with a drop shot winner. Gauff wasted the first with a shot into the net.
On the next point an off forehand volley from Barty that went well wide gave Gauff the early break.
Barty hit a backhand winner down the line to set up two break back points at 15-40. It would take just one as Barty had Gauff on the run before hitting a nice volley to win the point.
A rain delay then sent the players to the change rooms.
Barty returned to the court with an arm sleeve on her right arm.
After the players warmed up it was Barty that held serve to lead 3-2.
The players then took a seat as the rain got a bit heavier but not heavy enough to rush away from the court. The players would eventually go back to the rooms.
After returning to the courts again the players held serve for 4-5 with Gauff serving.
A slip by Gauff saw her miss a shot at 15-0 and then a net cord helped Barty see the ball sit up for a big forehand that setup the point.
A drop shot winner from Barty gave the Australian two break points at 15-40. Gauff saved two set points before a double fault gave Barty a third.
This time a net cord from Barty that saw the ball sit up for Gauff was put away for a winner by the American.
A backhand unforced error into the net by Gauff and it was another set point. A good serve from the teen forced an error, the game continued.
Barty jumped on a serve to force an error from Gauff to again look at a set point, her fifth. Finally she converted with a forehand winner.
Barty won a game to move to 2-1 in the second set, she then called for the trainer. Barty made the decision to retire.
Gauff advanced to her first WTA1000 level semifinal.