Australian Open 2021: Serena Williams withdraws from Ashleigh Barty semi-final in tuneup event
Serena Williams needed a match tiebreaker to beat fellow American Danielle Collins 6-2, 4-6, 10-6
Melbourne: Serena Williams withdrew from an Australian Open tuneup tournament citing a right shoulder injury Friday within hours of setting up a semifinal match against top-ranked Ash Barty.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion usually doesn't play in a tournament in the week before a Grand Slam event, but made an exception before the US Open last year and for this Australian Open because of all the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 39-year-old American was playing her first tournament since withdrawing from the French Open before her second-round match because of an Achilles tendon injury last October. She, like all players travelling into Australia for the tournament, had to quarantine for 14 days and had limited practice during that time.
With the year's first major starting Monday, Williams may be better resting.
She had three wins at the Yarra Valley Classic — one of six tournaments at Melbourne Park this week — culminating with a 6-2, 4-6, 10-6 win in a match tiebreaker over fellow American Danielle Collins on Friday.
Barty will also get a rest Saturday after getting a walkover into the final, which has been pushed back by a day.
There were 70 matches on the order of play Friday, an expanded program a day after all matches in six tournaments were postponed so that 160 players and 507 people overall could isolate and undergo testing because a worker at a quarantine hotel returned a positive test. Tennis Australia said all tests were negative.
To speed things up a little at the back end of the tournament, 17 courts were being used and women's matches were reduced to two regular sets with a 10-point match tiebreaker if required.
Williams and Barty both had to play the match tiebreaker — Barty beat Shelby Rogers 7-5, 2-6, 10-4.
Before withdrawing, Williams said she was looking forward to the semifinals.
"It's definitely a good opportunity to see where I'm going against the current No. 1, that's really important for me," Williams said. "Obviously I think for her, as well, to see where she's going against my game.
"It's been a long 12 months. Tennis has been played but not really, so ... hopefully this is like a new year where things will be different."
Garbine Muguruza beat defending Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the semifinals, reversing their result of their 2020 final at Melbourne Park. She will next play No. 8 Marketa Vondrousova.
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka beat Yulia Putintseva 6-4, 1-6, 11-9 to advance at the Grampians Trophy, an event staged for the players forced into hard lockdown during quarantine.
Sorana Cirstea upset Belinda Bencic, the highest-ranked player in the tournament, 7-5, 6-2 before a clap of thunder and a rain shower suspended play on outside courts.
Wawrinka wins, Kyrgios "loses" racket
Top-ranked Stan Wawrinka beat Alex Bolt 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) to move into the quarterfinals of the Murray River Open along with No. 3 Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 4 Borna Coric, who beat local favorite Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 6-4. A frustrated Kyrgios smashed his racket and threw it out of the 1573 Arena.
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