Serena Williams withdraws at Perth, injury toll grows

BRISBANE: Top-ranked Serena Williams retired during the second set of her Hopman Cup match in Perth on Tuesday, culminating a day of injuries and upsets for the leading players on the women’s tour less than two week from the Australian Open.


Williams, who missed the U.S. team’s opening loss to Ukraine on Monday because of inflammation in her left knee, was trailing 7-5, 2-1 against Jarmila Wolfe when she left the court.

Australia now has a 1-0 lead ahead of the men’s singles in a Group A match at the international mixed team tournament. Ukraine improved to 2-0 in the group with a win over Czech Republic.

Earlier, defending champion Maria Sharapova and top-seeded Simona Halep withdrew from the Brisbane International with injuries within an hour of each other, without playing a match.

At the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, defending champion Venus Williams and 2014 winner Ana Ivanovic were ousted in first-round upsets.

No. 4-ranked Sharapova was scheduled to play fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova but withdrew hours before the first-round match rather than risk further damage to a sore left forearm ahead of the first Grand Slam tournament of the season.

The five-time major winner said she’d hurt her forearm in practice and had to withdraw as a precaution. Her place in the draw was taken by Margarita Gasparyan, who lost to Makarova.

Halep had a first-round bye and withdrew a day ahead of her scheduled opening match against Victoria Azarenka because of a problem with her left Achilles tendon.

”I wanted to play here. This injury is very difficult,” Halep said. ”I thought I was ready, but I can’t do a full match.”

Halep said she hoped to play at the Sydney International next week. Sharapova is heading directly to Melbourne to prepare for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 18.

Sharapova won the Brisbane and Rome titles in 2015 and lost the final of the Australian Open to Serena Williams, who added the French Open and Wimbledon titles and was two match victories from a season Grand Slam when she lost to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals.

Vinci moved into the Brisbane International quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday. She’ll meet either 2009 champion Azarenka or Ysaline Bonaventure in the last eight.

Also advancing were No. 6-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, who beat Sam Stosur 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-4, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who held off Alize Cornet 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.

Among the men progressing in Brisbane were No. 6 David Goffin, who beat Thomaz Bellucci 6-4, 6-4, and No. 8 Dominic Thiem, who held off local James Duckworth 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

In New Zealand, top-seeded Venus Williams made 73 unforced errors in a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2 loss to 18-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina.

Ivanovic was beaten 7-5, 6-4 by British qualifier Naomi Broady, who fired 14 aces and won 74 percent of points on serve.

Former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone lost 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-3 to Austrian qualifier Tamira Paszek, while third-seeded Caroline Wozniacki advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Danka Kovnic.