Bothered by a painful hip, top-ranked Ash Barty retired Thursday from her second-round match at the French Open, leaving the clay-court Grand Slam tournament without its top two women’s seeds and any of the top three women in the rankings.
The 2019 champion trailed 6-1, 2-2 when she signalled that she couldn’t continue against Polish opponent Magda Linette on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I was battling the pain, and it just became too severe, and like I said, was becoming unsafe,” Barty said of the injury that had flared up during training before the tournament.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, both former champions, advanced to the third round.
Federer beat Marin Cilic 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 for his ninth win in 10 meetings against the big-serving Croat and fifth in majors.
“I think I played a really good match, I surprised myself a bit. I didn’t think I could play at this level for 2½ hours against Marin,” Federer said. “I still think the level was high, I tried everything and I had some very good moments, notably in the tiebreak. I finished by serving really well. It shows I have something in reserve, I have some energy left and that’s really good for my confidence.”
The eighth-seeded Federer next faces unseeded Dominik Koepfer.
Federer looked sharp, and could even afford to get a little distracted, arguing with chair umpire Emmanuel Joseph after being given a time warning for slow play during the second set on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Federer even asked Cilic for his opinion.
“Marin, am I playing too slow?” he asked.
Cilic suggested he was.
But after winning in the first round on Monday, Federer spoke about the strange feeling of having to handle his own towel, because of coronavirus rules, and how it upset his rhythm. He argued the point to Emmanuel, and to Cilic.
“I understand the rule,” Federer protested to Cilic. “[But] I’m going from one corner to the next trying to get my towel. I’m not doing it on purpose.”
Federer, whose 40th birthday is Aug. 8, hadn’t appeared on the Grand Slam stage since Jan. 30, 2020, when he lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals.
They could meet here, since they are in the same side of the draw along with defending champion Rafael Nadal – who is level all time on 20 major titles with Federer.
Djokovic made brief work of beating clay-court specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, saving eight of the nine break points he faced. The 18-time Grand Slam champion next plays unseeded Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis.
Nadal was set to play during the night session on his 35th birthday, with fans having to leave the grounds by 9 p.m. because of coronavirus rules.
The 13-time champion was facing Richard Gasquet, having a 16-0 career record against the Frenchman.
Another defending champion, Iga Swiatek, faced Rebecca Peterson on Court Simonne-Mathieu.
This is only the third time at any Grand Slam tournament in the professional era, which began in 1968, that the top two women’s seeds are gone before the third round. It also happened at the French Open in 2014 (No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 2 Li Na) and the U.S. Open in 2018 (No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki).
In addition to Barty’s departure, No. 2 Naomi Osaka withdrew after the first round, saying she is going to take a break from competition for mental-health reasons. The third-ranked Halep pulled out before the tournament because of a leg injury.
In the buildup to this year’s French Open, Barty played 13 matches on clay and won 11. She posted a record of 27-5 and won three singles titles before Roland Garros. But she was forced to retire in the quarter-finals in Rome in May because of an injury to her right arm. She said that injury had healed and did not hamper her in Paris.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Barty said. “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.”
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 struggled in long rallies and with her first serve.
Barty 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.
Already dealing with her hip problem in the first round, Barty had struggled through a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win over 70th-ranked Bernarda Pera.
“We did everything, absolutely everything we could, to give myself a chance,” Barty said. “It was a small miracle that we were able to get on court for that first round. Again, today it was no better and getting worse again.”
Barty decided not to defend her title last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, choosing instead to remain home in Australia.
After ending a four-match losing streak on clay in the previous round, 2020 runner-up Sofia Kenin advanced to the third round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Hailey Baptiste.
Kenin has had a tough start to the season. The 2020 Australian Open champion from the United States underwent an emergency appendectomy in Melbourne in February and her record was 7-8 entering the clay-court Grand Slam.
Fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina beat Ann Li of the U.S. 6-0, 6-4.