'Gutted': Ash Barty's shocking move in Roland Garros scare
World No.1 Ash Barty has shocked tennis fans after she retired hurt against American teenage superstar Coco Gauff just two weeks out from Roland Garros.
Barty looked like she would be surging into the semi-final of the Italian Open after taking the first set 6-4 and leading 2-1 in the second.
WOW: Massive plot twist as Ash Barty continues clay-court dominance
'CAN'T BELIEVE IT': Tennis world stunned by Rafael Nadal drama
But things took a turn when the Australian emerged after the break with a compression band around her arm.
After a stop-start match in the rain, Barty took a seat during the switch of ends before speaking to a trainer.
But in a shock move, she then approached a stunned Gauff and told her she was retiring hurt.
The young American appeared taken aback at the news, considering she was down, but embraced Barty in a classy moment.
The commentators were also surprised when Barty suddenly decided the pain in her right arm was too much.
"Wow, this is really surprising," the commentator said.
"So the trainer was called on, Barty was shaking her head in frustration, she is going to have to pull out."
The move had tennis fans concerned for the in-form World No.1 only two weeks out from the French Open.
Get well soon ❤️❤️ @ashbarty https://t.co/E18LCHGQtv
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) May 14, 2021
As it starts to rain again, the world number one Ash Barty, leading Coco Gauff 6-4, 2-1*, decides to retire with an right arm injury.
Had a quick chat with the physio and decided to retire...
Gauff into her biggest career SFs.
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) May 14, 2021
😩 Barty retires a set up, leaves Rome with a hug with Gauff. #ibi21 pic.twitter.com/dHX1Yoy3Jx
— Tennis GIFs 🎾🎥 (@tennis_gifs) May 14, 2021
Ash Barty on her *right arm injury.
"It became worse while we were playing. [...] The pain was becoming too severe so it was important that I listened to my body and do the right thing knowing that we have a slam [soon]."
Barty said she has had this issue on and off for years.
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) May 14, 2021
So sad to see Barty retire hurt. I hope it’s mostly precautionary. All the best to Guaff. Love your attitude Ash. Bet you miss your man.
— Macroview (@helgavisser) May 14, 2021
Gutted @ashbarty withdrew but she is the smartest athlete there is, her and her team know exactly what to do and when and hope that treatment can help the injury with the French Open so close very smart move. Good luck to @CocoGauff in the next round.
— what's the craic? (@whatsthecraic1) May 14, 2021
Ash Barty addresses injury concern
However, following the match Barty, insisting that pulling out was a precaution, said she was confident that she'd be "good to go" in a fortnight when she sets out to win at Roland Garros as she did in 2019.
"It's disappointing no doubt but it was important that I listened to my body and gave it time to rest and recover and make sure that in a couple of weeks time I'm 100% fit for Roland Garros," said Barty.
"It became worse while we were playing. The challenging thing is to make the decision to stop. It's the thing that I hate the most, not being able to finish a tennis match. It's not in my makeup, not what I like to do.
"But the pain was becoming too severe, so it was important to try and do the right thing."
Barty has been in excellent form ahead of the second Grand Slam of the year.
But the injury could have been signs of wear and tear on clay after her recent hectic programme which has seen her play 17 matches in 24 days in three countries.
Gauff's victory marks a miklestone for the American teenage sensation.
However, she was humble after advancing in Rome.
"It's not a good feeling to win this way," said Gauff, who'd been shocked when Barty told her she was pulling out.
"I send the best well wishes, and hopefully she can get well before the French Open."
Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.