Serena Williams withdrew from her opening match at the Hopman Cup yesterday because of inflammation in her left knee, an early setback in her preparations for an Australian Open title defense.
World No. 1 Williams practiced ahead of her scheduled season-opener against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the international mixed-team competition at the Perth Arena, but withdrew from the match and was replaced by Vicky Duval.
Duval lost 6-4, 6-1 to Svitolina and Alexandr Dolgopolov beat Jack Sock 6-4, 6-2 to clinch the Group A match for Ukraine, before the US pairing won the mixed doubles 6-2, 6-3.
Williams said she expected to be able to join Sock in the US team to play the Australia Gold team today.
Hopman Cup tournament director Paul Kilderry said Williams reported feeling pain in her knee on Sunday.
“She wanted to give herself every chance to play, she warmed up this morning, but common sense prevailed and she just thought today she can’t do it,” Kilderry said.
After winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles last year, Williams narrowly missed completing a season Grand Slam when she lost to Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals of the US Open.
For the 20-year-old Duval, who returned to tennis in August after overcoming Hodgkin’s lymphoma, filling in for Williams was a great opportunity.
“I was kind of nervous because I was filling in big shoes, but I had a really fun time today,” Duval said. “I have a whole new outlook on life. I’m just really grateful to be back and do what I love.”
In the night match, Andy Murray had a 6-2, 6-2 win over Kenny de Schepper to give Britain a 1-0 lead over France.
At the Brisbane International, Australian Sam Stosur narrowly avoided another disappointment on home turf as she battled through a wrist injury and three tough sets to claim a season-opening victory yesterday.
The former US Open champion recovered from 0-3 down in the final set to record a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Slovakian qualifier Jana Cepelova to begin her always intense Australian summer in positive style.
The 31-year-old has frequently failed to hit the heights on home turf, having never won a tournament or progressed past the fourth round at the Australian Open, and she bemoaned on Sunday the unfair emphasis she received for her domestic form.
The world No. 27 looked set to give the critics another stick to beat her with before a spirited effort did for the world No. 147 and set up a second-round clash with Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro today.
Stosur needed treatment for a wrist problem midway through the second set, but was not overly concerned about the injury.
“I’m not freaking out about it,” the right-handed winner of eight WTA Tour titles said. “I need to go see my physio and do whatever we need to do tonight.”
In the men’s singles, last year’s finalist Grigor Dimitrov needed six match points before beating fifth-seeded Gilles Simon 6-3, 7-6 (12/10) to move into the second round.
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka returned from a layoff with foot and leg injuries with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina in her first competitive match since September, setting up a second-round match against world No. 2 Simona Halep.
Also advancing in Brisbane were seventh seed Belinda Bencic, who beat Sara Errani 6-1, 6-2, and Vinci, who overcame former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
At the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, fourth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova progressed to the second round, leading 6-2, 1-1 when Mona Barthel of Germany retired from their first-round match because of a stomach ailment.
Fifth seed Sloane Stephens of the US beat Polona Hercog of Slovakia 6-3, 6-3 and Irina Falconi ousted sixth seed Coco Vandeweghe 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two
‘GREAT COMPETITOR’: Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was tested by American teenager Coco Gauff, before the Spaniard advanced in three sets Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Thursday cruised into the quarter-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia by handing their Japanese opponents a rare “double bagel,” a feat matched by US Open losing finalist Victoria Azarenka in the women’s singles. Top seeds Hsieh and Strycova took just 49 minutes to see off the challenge of Japanese duo Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-0, 6-0 on the clay courts at the Foro Italico in Rome. The Taiwanese-Czech duo saved both break points they faced and converted six of 14, winning 62 percent of their first