WTA Rome 2013: Maria Sharapova withdraws due to sickness

WTA Rome 2013: Maria Sharapova withdraws due to sickness ahead of her quarter-final against Sara Errani

maria sharapova
Maria Sharapova is world No2 behind Serena Williams Photo: Marianne Bevis

Just as Maria Sharapova’s arch rival for the Rome and French Open titles, Serena Williams, was taking to court for the first women’s quarter-final at the Foro Italico, the unexpected news came through that the No2-seeded Russian had withdrawn from the tournament with physical problems.

In a conference call soon after, she revealed that she was suffering from sickness that had first affected her at the Madrid Premier last week. There, she lost to Williams in a final that would, had she won, have returned Sharapova to No1.

“I was pretty sick in Madrid, but I kind of played through it,” she said. “Then last night it kind of came back. I got sick again, so I don’t think it’s right to go out on the court knowing I have another three rounds to win the tournament. Obviously recovery is extremely important right now: I’m starting to practise in Paris next week.”

Her progress through the Rome draw has appeared effortless: She dropped just four games in her opener and only three against Sloane Stephens in yesterday’s third-round match, for a total of under two-and-a-half hours on court. She confirmed, though, that she had started to feel unwell during that second match:

“I started to feel something against Sloane Stephens: I think you could see that in my energy, it wasn’t quite there yesterday,” she added.

“When I got back yesterday and all through the night, I knew it would be quite tough. I was not feeling well at all.

“[The doctor] wanted to make sure it doesn’t keep recurring. If I don’t take care of it now, it might turn into something more.”

With the French Open just around the corner, this is an intense and important phase on the tour. That, she believes, has its plusses and minuses. She has reached the final of her last four tournaments, winning in Stuttgart and Indian Wells, and until Rome, had not fallen before the semis in any of her six events this year. It means that she has plenty of matches under her belt, especially on clay.

“I’m not the one to withdraw from tournaments,” she said. “I don’t have a lot on my schedule and the ones I play mean a lot to me. But it’s quite important to make the right, smart decisions and this is one of them.”

Sharapova’s withdrawal sent home favourite, Sara Errani, into the semi-finals on Saturday, where she will meet either Victoria Azarenka or Sam Stosur. This is the Italian’s first Rome as singles seed—she is No7—and she is already guaranteed a career-high ranking of No5 after the tournament. Her 31 match-wins so far this year are second only to Williams’s 33.

Williams took a little longer than Errani to seal her own quarter-final place—a 56-minute rout, 6-2, 6-0, of Carla Suarez Navarro. Williams dismissed Dominika Cibulkova in the third round, 6-0, 6-1, in 66 minutes, but claimed afterwards: “Nothing is ever perfect: I learned that last year when I felt perfect.”

If not perfect, Williams is pretty close, reaching her longest-ever winning streak of 22 matches and claiming four titles—and counting.

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