Barty downs Rogers at Yarra Valley, Serena pulls out of semifinal

Melbourne, February 5

Serena Williams withdrew from the Yarra Valley Classic semifinals on Friday due to a shoulder injury, just days before the American begins her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

Williams had advanced to a mouth-watering semifinal clash against world No. 1 Ash Barty after getting past Danielle Collins 6-2 4-6 (10-6) and while she showed no sign of discomfort the WTA Tour later said the 39-year-old was pulling out with a right shoulder injury.

Barty had also needed a super tiebreaker to beat Shelby Rogers 7-5 2-6 (10-4) in her quarterfinal.

Super tiebreakers are being played after two sets in all WTA warm-ups as organisers look to clear a backlog of matches caused by Thursday’s suspension of play after a worker at one of the Melbourne quarantine hotels contracted COVID-19.

At the Gippsland Trophy, world No. 2 Simona Halep suffered a surprise 6-2 6-1 defeat to Ekaterina Alexandrova, while Victoria Azarenka advanced at the Grampians Trophy with a 6-4 1-6 (11-9) win over Yulia Putintseva but top seed Belinda Bencic fell 7-5 6-2 to Sorana Cirstea.

In the other half of the Yarra Valley draw, Garbine Muguruza dumped Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin out of the tournament 6-2 6-2 in a re-match of last year’s Grand Slam final at Melbourne Park.

Muguruza will next play Marketa Vondrousova after the Czech took down Nadia Podoroska 4-6 6-3 (10-4).

American Williams never looked in any real danger of following Kenin through the exit door despite a tricky tie against her compatriot, the 39-year-old ramping up her serve when it mattered to get the job done.

Williams attended a media conference and spoke to reporters about her next match with Barty but the WTA later confirmed that she has pulled out.

“Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Yarra Valley Classic singles draw due to a right shoulder injury,” the women’s tour said on Twitter.

“Ashleigh Barty advances to the final by walkover.” Barty and Rogers were among the first players out on court, playing under a closed roof at Margaret Court Arena on a rainy morning at Melbourne Park as the Australian Open warm-ups resumed following a COVID-19 scare.

“It was a tricky one, when the roof shuts here the conditions become quite sterile,” said Barty.

“There were certainly some challenges today … Happy to get through and get another opportunity tomorrow.”

After being gifted the first set when Rogers crumbled on serve, top seed Barty was on the back foot in the second as the world No. 60 found her range and began dominating the rallies with raw power.

Shelby’s resurgence fizzled out in the tiebreak, however, and she surrendered the match with a wild backhand that sailed well past the baseline.

Two-time Grand Slam winner Halep made a brisk start to go up 2-0 in her Gippsland Trophy match but Alexandrova then reeled off nine straight games as the frustrated top seed moved gingerly on court. She also put a heat pack on her lower back towards the close of the first set.

Russian ninth seed Alexandrova will next face Kaia Kanepi, who advanced after her quarter-final opponent Karolina Muchova withdrew from Friday’s match due to an abdominal injury. Reuters

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