ROME – Maria Sharapova pulled out with a thigh injury while leading her second-round tie in Rome against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, just hours after she was denied a wild card for the French Open on Tuesday.
Sharapova, who was wearing a bandage on her left thigh, retired from her contest against the veteran Croat while ahead 4-6, 6-3, 2-1 to round out a miserable day for the five-time Grand Slam champion.
Defeat in Rome meant the 30-year-old also missed out on a chance to qualify for the main draw at Wimbledon, which she could have achieved by reaching the finals in the Italian capital.
While Sharapova will at least have a chance to qualify for Wimbledon, the French Open will be without the twice former winner as well as Roger Federer and the pregnant Serena Williams.
“You can get a wild card when you return from injury but you cannot get a wild card when returning from a doping suspension,” French tennis federation president Bernard Giudicelli said in an internet media conference.
“I appreciate the media impact of Maria, I appreciate the broadcasters’ expectations but in conscience, it was not possible to go beyond the anti-doping code and beyond the application of the rules.
“I’m very sorry for Maria, very sorry for her fans,” added Giudicelli. “They might be disappointed, she might be very disappointed, but it’s my responsibility, my mission, to protect the high standards of the game.”
Four-time Rome men’s champion Novak Djokovic overcame Britain’s Aljaz Bedene 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 for a place in the third round.
The world number two came through a tight opening set by dominating the tiebreaker before finishing off his victory amid a smattering of jeers from the crowd.
The Serb lost to Rafael Nadal in last week’s Madrid semi-finals, but his quick start on Tuesday was just the tonic for Djokovic, who has never failed to reach the last eight in Rome.
“It was a little bit of a slower start, Bedene is the kind of player that gives you good rhythm. I had some good exchanges, some good games with rallies and it felt right, especially in the second set,” Djokovic said.
“I played a great tiebreak, served very well when I needed to. I just wish that I had started a little bit sharper. But hopefully the next one will be good.”
British fifth seed Johanna Konta reached the third round with a crushing 6-3, 6-0 win over Yulia Putintseva. She was joined by double Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova as the seventh seed beat Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 7-6 (7/3).
Australian Daria Gavrilova beat former finalist and 10th seed Madison Keys 2-6, 7-5, 7-5, while Dutch 15th seed Kiki Bertens put out Monica Niculescu of Romania 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.-AFP