Former world No1 Victoria Azarenka pulled out of the Wuhan Open in China and said she will miss the rest of the season as she battles a foot injury.
The Belarussian has slid down the rankings to 25th after a year in which she has struggled with a left foot injury that caused her to sit out the French Open.
“Unfortunately I will not be competing in any tournaments for the remainder of the season,” she said on her Facebook page. “It has been a very tough year for me.”
Meanwhile, Venus Williams crashed out of the Wuhan Open in the first round in a three-set defeat to French player Caroline Garcia. Garcia took the first set 6-4, only to suffer a 6-4 reverse in the second before clinching victory in a tie-break which finished 8/6.
As the WTA bids farewell to the retired Li Na, the tour welcomes its latest addition to the calendar – a tournament in the Chinese megastar’s hometown of Wuhan, where Serena Williams headlines a stellar field that features 19 of the world’s top-20.
The tournament is a $2.4 million (Dh8.8m) WTA Premier 5 event and kicks off its main draw action today with some thrilling match-ups featuring the likes of Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Andrea Petkovic.
The top eight seeds led by Serena, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova all have byes in the opening round.
“In 2008, there were two professional women’s tennis tournaments in China. Today, there are 10, one of them in Wuhan, my hometown. That to me is extraordinary!
“Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams – with thirty Grand Slam singles titles among them – are coming to my hometown to play tennis for the fans of China,” Li Na said in her retirement letter on Facebook.
“Just as I didn’t think I could ever be a Grand Slam champion, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that some of the best female athletes in the world could play tennis in Wuhan, in my backyard.”
While the timing of Li Na’s retirement has come just two days prior to the start of the Wuhan tournament, fans can find solace in the interesting match-ups that could result from an interesting draw.
A US Open final rematch could be in the cards as Serena and Caroline Wozniacki have been placed in the same half of the draw but the Dane must first get past Sharapova, who is also a potential semi-final opponent for the world No1.
Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard will be making her first appearance since her US Open fourth round exit and has landed in the same quarter of the draw as Serena.
The other half pits French Open finalist Halep against seventh-seeded Angelique Kerber in the same quarter, while Agnieszka Radwanska and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova share the fourth quarter.
Former champion Gael Monfils sustained a knee injury during his straight sets defeat to Portugal’s Joao Sousa in the Moselle Open semi-finals in Metz yesterday to become the latest home casualty at the French tournament.
The home crowd were dealt a blow after what could have been a final between their two stars Jo- Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils has become a title match between Sousa and Belgium’s David Goffin, who followed up his victory over Tsonga in the quarters with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 win over Germany’s Jan- Lennard Struff.
Monfils’ defeat means that the ATP event in Metz will be won by a non-Frenchman for the first time since Russian Dmitry Tursunov took the trophy in 2008.
Goffin saved five of the six break points he faced and will now pursue a second tour title, having secured his first in Kitzbuhel in July.
Sousa, seeded sixth in Metz, was equally impressive in ending the challenge of No2 seed and 2009 champion Monfils 7-6 (8/6), 6-2.
Sousa will also be looking to land his second tour title, adding to the trophy he won in Kuala Lumpur last year.
Monfils was heard telling the umpire “my knee is painful” in the second set of the match and later told reporters: “I did not want to get injured and that’s what has happened.
“I will have an MRI on Tuesday and hope that it’s nothing serious.”
The injury puts a serious doubt on Monfils’ participation in the Davis Cup final, where France take on Switzerland in Lille on November 21-23.
On his part, Sousa, ranked 39 in the world, was thrilled to reach his second final of the season (lost the Bastad final in July) and is hoping to post his first win over Goffin, who beat the Portuguese easily in the US Open a few weeks ago.
“I think I played a great match today against Gael,” said Sousa, who is the first Portuguese to ever win an ATP title.
“I’m very happy with the tennis I’m playing. I’ve been playing better and better. I hope tomorrow to play my best tennis, because Goffin is a great player and for sure he’s going to play very good.”