Thursday, June 3, 2021

Barty quits with injury; Stephens bounces Czech

Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, the 2019 French Open champion, had a strong
clay-court season. 2019 photo by Harjanto Sumali  
   No. 1 seed and 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia retired because of a left hip injury with Magda Linette of Poland leading 6-1, 2-2 today in the second round of the French Open in Paris.
   After her three-set victory over American Bernarda Pera on Tuesday in the first round, the top-ranked Barty revealed that she had suffered an "acute episode" with her left hip over the weekend. She played that match with her left thigh wrapped and took a medical timeout between the second and third sets.
   Barty bypassed the U.S. Open and French Open last year because of travel concerns during the pandemic and reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in February. She won the titles in Miami (hardcourts) and Stuttgart (clay) in April and advanced to the final in Madrid (clay) last month.
   Also exiting today was No. 9 seed and former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, who fell to Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up, 7-5, 6-1.
   Pliskova reached the final of the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford and the semifinals of the 2017 French Open.
   Stephens, a 28-year-old product of Fresno, Calif., now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has plunged from a career-high No. 3 in 2018 to No. 59. She lost her first four matches of the year.
   "I had COVID," Stephens told reporters in Charleston in April. "I lost three people that were very close to me. I'm in Australia, I literally had to go to my grandparents' funeral on Zoom, and I just was not ready to play."
   Stephens is set to face another Czech, No. 18 seed Karolina Muchova, on Saturday. Muchova, an Australian Open semifinalist in February and Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2019, defeated U.S. qualifier Varvara Lepchenko, a 35-year-old left-hander originally from Uzbekistan, 6-3, 6-4. 
   Stephens and Muchova have never met.
   In doubles:
   —Mel Purcell and Luke Saville of Australia surprised No. 15 seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the second round.
   —No. 4 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan edged Paula Badosa and Aliona Bolsova of Spain 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (1) in the first round. Shibahara was born in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area and starred at UCLA.
   —No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at Cal from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain defeated Salvatore Caruso of Italy and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 7-5, 6-3 in the opening round.
   —French wild cards Arthur Cazaux and Hugo Gaston beat Americans Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-1 in the first round.
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the opening round of doubles in the $52,080 Little Rock (Ark.) Open, No. 2 seeds Dennis Novikov of San Jose, Calif., and Goncalo Oliveira of Portugal defeated alternates Tristan Schoolkate and Dane Sweeny of Australia 6-4, 7-5.

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