The second singles match of the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen was cut short when Bianca Andreescu retired from her match against Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday, with a left knee injury.
I was ready to fight today, not to give it to her easy. Doesn't matter how bad injured she is, how bad she feels, I just wanted to win, get this victory to keep myself in the tournament, which happened, of course not in the best way. Karolina Pliskova
The Canadian also had been dealing with back soreness since Monday, which was tended to by a trainer several times in the 3rd set of her 3-set loss to Simona Halep.
It left the 2nd-seeded Karolina Pliskova with a win in the Purple Group that puts her in contention for a semi-final spot, providing she can beat Halep on Friday.
It was a disappointing situation for the No 4 seed Andreescu, who was forced to retire after losing the first set 6-3.
The Canadian got off to a lightning start, overpowering Pliskova to break from 40-0 up in the first game and going up 2-0, 15-15, when she pulled up short.
She struggled to walk after stretching to return a wide serve from the Czech, reaching for her forehand, and limped to the bench, where a trainer wrapped her knee.
She returned to the court, but her movement was visibly impaired and she proceeded to make several errors.
Leading 3-2, a tearful Andreescu told her coach, Sylvain Bruneau, during an on-court coaching break that she was unable to bend her knee at all.
“My knee twisted,” she said. “I heard a crack. [The trainer] validated me that [it’s] my meniscus. It’s cracking every time I walk and it fr****** hurts.”
He told her ‘not push things’ but she determined to soldier on.
“I don’t want to stop,” she told Bruneau. “If it was against Simona, then OK. But [Pliskova] misses.”
Having won 11 out of a stretch of 14 points before injury struck, Andreescu won just 1 of the next 6 games after returning to the court.
The US Open champion fought valiantly, and her shotmaking talent is such that when her movement wasn’t tested she was still able to blitz winners out of nowhere, but she made no attempt at Pliskova’s final serve.
Andreescu cannot now advance to the semi-finals of the $14-million US event after dropping her first 2 matches.
Pliskova continued to struggle with a few ill-timed double faults, but in the main was able to move the ball around the court sufficiently to test her hobbled opponent’s movement, breaking twice before serving out the set with her 3rd ace, at which point Andreescu finally called it quits.
“I didn’t know it was really that bad,” said Pliskova afterwards. “Of course, I feel sorry for her… I just felt I’m really in the match.
“I was ready to fight today, not to give it to her easy. Doesn’t matter how bad injured she is, how bad she feels, I just wanted to win, get this victory to keep myself in the tournament, which happened, of course not in the best way.”
With one round-robin match still to play on Friday, the 19-year-old will still be able to continue in the tournament if she is able, although she cannot now progress out of the Purple Group.
In terms of Pliskova’s advancement scenarios, the result counts as a win, meaning that both she and Halep will be at 1-1 going into their final round-robin match against each other, and will play off for the second semi-final spot behind Elina Svitolina.
“I think that’s going to be a great matchup,” said Pliskov of her next challenge. “Should be incredible match.
“I hope it’s going to be a good match to watch, too. I’m sure, because she’s putting a lot of balls back.
“The tennis with her, I feel it’s always good to watch. Of course, for me tough because there’s going to be a lot of rallies.
“I played good match against Svitolina. I think it’s going to be a little bit similar to Simona. She beat her, so should be close. But I still have to play well. It’s going to be difficult.”
Pliskova, who lost to Andreescu in 3 sets in the Rogers Cup quarter-finals at Toronto, leads the tour this year with 4 tournament titles to her credit.
As for Andreescu, this latest injury is one of a catalogue of problems the 19-year has faced in her short career.
Earlier this season she was sidelined for months with a right shoulder problem, and in August was hampered by a groin injury at the Rogers Cup.
Andreescu, the World No 4 ahead of her debut at the season-ending WTA Finals, arrived in Shenzhen with a 48-5 season record and coming off a quarter-final loss to Naomi Osaka at the China Open earlier this month.
She was attempting to complete a sensational season with a 4th title following victories at Indian Wells, the Rogers Cup and US Open in New York, where she defeated 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in early September to become the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title.
The loss to Osaka was Andreescu’s first on the Tour in 6 months, not counting withdrawals and retirements, and halted a 17-match win streak that saw her soar up the WTA rankings.
Andreescu, who opened 2019 ranked outside the top 150, was the first Canadian to play in the WTA Finals since Eugenie Bouchard in 2014.
Osaka, a two-time Grand Slam champion, withdrew from the WTA Finals on Tuesday with a right shoulder injury.
Andreescu, however, will decide on Thursday whether or not to continue her participation.
“I stepped weirdly on a return,” Andreescu explained in her post-match press conference. “I heard my knee crack. It kind of went inwards.
“Putting pressure afterwards on it really bothered me. I could barely bend my knee. But I fought with the pain as much as I could.
“At some point an athlete has to say ‘stop’ and just listen to their body. That’s what I did.
“It’s disappointing ’cause this is the last tournament of the year, you want to go all out,” she added. “You’re playing one of the biggest tournaments of the year, too. It’s not easy.”
Despite the acute pain, Andreescu explained that her first impulse was to keep playing.
“Actually I’ve never had a during-match injury happen before, other than spraining my ankle, but that was back in 2015.
“Honestly, I really didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I’ve fought through pain before, but this was different. It was like very acute.
“But it’s the last tournament of the year. I just told myself, Push it as much as you can. You’re going to have a good break after this. But yeah, maybe I could have pushed it more. I don’t know.
“My team said no. It was good that I stopped. Honestly, I could have kept going. If I did, then I would just be, like, whining on the court. I don’t want that. I’ve done that enough,” she added with a wry laugh.
It is a disappointing turn of events for Andreescu, who is competing in her first WTA Finals after a breakthrough season catapulted her from outside the Top 100 in the rankings to the game’s highest echelons.
“Some injuries are just inevitable,” Andreescu said. “It’s the athlete’s job, team’s job, to just try our best to prevent as much as possible.
“It’s a long season. It’s not easy day in, day out. But I love doing this, so I’m just going to keep fighting.”