World No. 1 Serena Williams has opted against defending the WTA Finals title and decided to end her season early following a roller-coaster campaign littered with pains and prizes, the American said yesterday.
The 34-year-old’s last match was her shock loss to Italy’s Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals of the US Open last month, which ended her bid to become the first women in 27 years to win all four Grand Slam titles in the same season.
The 21-time Grand Slam singles champion said she had been carrying injuries throughout the campaign and the loss to Vinci had taken its toll, adding she would not play again this year after also pulling out of next week’s China Open.
“My journey in tennis this year has been at times exhilarating, at times disappointing,” Williams said in a statement carried by the China Open organizers. “I’ve played injured most of the year — whether it was my elbow, my knee or in the final moments after a certain match in Flushing, my heart. I’m a fierce competitor and I want to compete as well as I can, for as long as I can. This is a very difficult decision, but one ultimately made because of the love of the game.”
After winning the Australian and French Open titles, Williams became the earliest ever qualifier for the eight-woman end-of-season finals when she won her third-round match at Wimbledon in July.
The American went on to win the grass-court championships, but under the heavy weight of expectation she was unable to add the US Open title after she threw away a set lead against Vinci.
Her withdraw is a big blow to the organizers of the Oct. 25 to Nov. 1 WTA Finals, who are already sweating on the fitness of world No. 3 Maria Sharapova after the Russian also pulled out of the China Open following a forearm injury in Wuhan.
Grand Slam finalists Garbine Muguruza and Roberta Vinci stormed into the last four of the Wuhan Open in China yesterday, while Venus Williams ended the giant-killing run of Britain’s Johanna Konta.
Konta had accounted for world No. 2 Simona Halep, 13th seed Andrea Petkovic and benefited from former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka retiring from their second-round clash, but seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams proved too strong.
Sydney-born 24-year-old Konta, ranked 66th in the world, seemed on course for victory when she served for the match at 5-3 in the third set, but the American broke serve before reeling off the next three games to wrap up a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 win.
The 35-year-old former world No. 1’s reward for coming through the slug fest on the blue hard courts of Wuhan is a clash with Italian Vinci, who knocked out Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (7/2), 6-3.
Vinci, who ended the calendar Grand Slam ambitions of Venus’ sister Serena at the US Open last month, was delighted to follow up her upset win over third seed Petra Kvitova in the previous round.
“Today was another tough match. Karolina plays so good and so flat, so for me it was difficult, especially at the beginning, but I served well and I’m really happy I’m in the semi-finals here in Wuhan for the first time.” said the 32-year-old, who lost the US Open final to compatriot Flavia Pennetta.
Wimbledon runner-up Muguruza had a far easier afternoon as she swept past Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-2.
The heavy-hitting 21-year-old Spaniard can go as high as world No. 4 depending on results this week, but her focus was simply on her form.
“It was a great match for me,” she said. “You don’t play at this level every day, so for me it was great to be playing like this.”
Muguruza next plays German sixth seed Angelique Kerber or CoCo Vandeweghe of the US.
In the doubles, the Chan sisters advanced to the today’s semi-finals, in which they face familiar foes.
Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan defeated Ukrainian twins Lyudmyla and Nadiia Kichenok 6-4, 6-2 in their first-round match which was rained off at 5-4 on Wednesday.
The fourth seeds then took just 56 minutes to see off Julia Goerges of Germany and Pliskova 6-2, 6-2 to set up a semi-final against top seeds Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Sania Mirza of India, who they beat on their way to winning the title in Cincinnati in August.
Top seed Annika Beck was eliminated in the Tashkent Open quarter-finals, losing to Bojana Jovanovski 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 yesterday.
Beck lost only two points on her serve in the first set, but Jovanovski’s return improved for the remainder of the match.
Jovanovski next faces Nao Hibino of Japan, who beat Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Kozlova 6-3, 6-3.
Donna Vekic of Croatia reached the semi-finals by beating Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 and she faces Evgeniya Rodina of Russia, who beat fourth seed Johanna Larsson of Sweden 6-3, 5-7, 6-0.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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