Maria Sharapova’s has retired injured with a left forearm problem against unseeded Barbora Strycova at the Wuhan Open.
The Russian’s disappointing tournament finish followed a late withdrawal from Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, which was linked to ongoing symptoms from a concussion suffered at the US Open earlier this month.
Sharapova had been out with a persistent leg injury since July, when she lost a Wimbledon semi-final to Serena Williams, and pulled out of three events including the US Open.
But the world No.3’s long-awaited return proved short-lived on Monday as she was pushed to two tie-breaks by the Czech Republic’s Strycova before withdrawing when 2-1 up in the third.
Sharapova’s retirement leaves a question mark over the rest of her season with only one big tournament, the China Open, left before the year-ending WTA Finals in Singapore.
In the other big upset of the day, Bouchard’s pullout left Swiss youngster Belinda Bencic – who this year earned a reputation as a giant-killer after knocking out top ranked players including Serena Williams – to play lucky loser Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.
A visibly tired Bencic had to fight hard for a two-set win over Tomljanovic, just a day after the 18-year-old lost the final of the WTA Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo to Agnieszka Radwanska.
Bencic will be hoping for a strong performance at Wuhan to help her end the year in the top 10, cementing her rapid rise up the rankings over the last two years.
Radwanska did not fare so well against Venus Williams, losing in two sets to the former world No.1, 6-1 7-6 (7-4).
Eighth seed Karolina Pliskova downed Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in a closely fought three sets in the second round, while this year’s shock finalist at the US Open, Roberta Vinci of Italy, took three sets to knock out qualifier Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 5-7 6-1 6-3 in the first round.
Seventh seed Serbian Ana Ivanovic downed Alexandra Dulgheru of Russia in two sets, breaking Dulgheru’s serve in the final game to end 6-1 6-3, and will meet in the second round unseeded Madison Brengle of the US who beat Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets.