I tried but I just couldn’t – Wozniacki apologises to fans after she becomes latest star to pull out of Hong Kong Tennis Open
Former world No 1 injures her elbow before her second-round match as annual showpiece is decimated by the latest major withdrawal at Victoria Park
Tournament organisers at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open were left scratching their heads wondering what they had done to deserve their bad luck on Thursday as the event was thrown into disarray after two major withdrawals in five hours.
Caroline Wozniacki, the defending champion and the biggest name left in an already decimated field, pulled out moments before she was set to take the court for her second round clash with Australia’s Lizette Cabrera.
That retirement came on the same day that the top seed in Hong Kong, Elina Svitolina, was forced to pull out minutes before her own last 32 match earlier in the day with a leg injury.
An almost-full centre court, anticipating seeing the world number six in action, was left wondering what was happening as an initial 10-minute delay was announced, before the 27-year-old emerged on the court to make a statement, pose for selfies and throw autographed tennis balls into the crowd before departing.
— WTA (@WTA) October 12, 2017
An emotional Wozniacki revealed that she had injured her elbow in practice earlier in the day and was unable to compete.
“I want to apologise to everyone who came out to watch this match,” Wozniacki said. “I did everything I could to be ready for today, but unfortunately I hurt my elbow during practice and there’s just no way I could perform my best out here today.
“It’s really disappointing for me to have to withdraw, but I hope all of you can understand,” she added.
Wozniacki is due to appear at the lucrative WTA Finals in Singapore later this month. That event consists of the top eight players in the world and boasts a mega prize pot of US$7 million.
Organisers moved quickly to bring forward the doubles match between the Canadian/American duo of Eugenie Bouchard and Shelby Rogers against the lauded doubles pairing of Taiwan’s Chan sisters.
The news only compounded the disappointment surrounding the earlier withdrawal of Ukrainian Svitolina.
The 23-year-old appeared to be struggling physically during her hard-fought first round win over Zarina Diyas on Tuesday before admitting she was carrying an injury but adding she had never considered pulling out of the US$500,000 WTA event.
However, shortly before her second round match against Nicole Gibbs, organisers announced the world number four had been forced to withdraw.
It was a further blow for the organisers who lost another top seed and Hong Kong crowd favourite, Venus Williams, at just the second stage on Wednesday evening.
Svitolina herself had stepped in as an eleventh hour replacement for US Open champion Sloane Stephens who withdrew in the days before the tournament.
Elsewhere, it was a mixed day for China’s players. Chinese number three Wang Qiang booked her place in the quarter-finals when she downed Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum in straight sets in their round two match.
Moved to centre court at short notice to fill the void left by Svitolina’s withdrawal, the Chinese ace capitalised on her accurate service game securing 90 per cent of her service points and sending down a spate of aces.
Kunkhum, the world No 130 could do little to resist as she succumbed to a sixth straight defeat against the 48 ranked Wang.
Next up for the 25-year-old Chinese is Australian Samantha Stosur who stunned number four seed Agnieszka Radwanska in their second round match on Wednesday.
Wang, who is still searching for her first full win on the WTA tour, might never have a better opportunity to get off the mark than at Victoria Park this week, but downplayed her chances against Stosur after revealing she is suffering from a cold.
“My body feels not so good today,” Wang said. “I hope I can stay on court tomorrow – I have a cold.
“She’s a good player. I watched her play a lot, So I will talk to my coach to come up with a plan for her,” she added.
Later, China’s Zhang Shuai was unable to follow up the success of her countrywoman as she went down to American Jennifer Brady in two sets.
Zhang, the world No 31 and China’s number two, found herself up against a highly determined Brady, who is enjoying the most successful season of her career to date.
The big-serving 22-year-old fired down seven aces with Zhang unable to notch a single one of her own during the 6-3, 6-4 defeat.
“I’m pretty happy with the way I played today,” Brady said. “I think I’m starting to figure out my weaknesses and strengths and putting my game together. My strengths are my serve, my forehand, my athleticism ... It’s just making those things better and completing my game.”
Though she’s still in the hunt for a maiden WTA title in a season where she has jumped almost 50 places to a career-high 65 ranking, the Pennsylvania-native wasn’t allowing herself to get too carried away with the suggestion she could break her duck in Hong Kong this week.
She now meets fellow American Nicole Gibbs in the quarter-finals.
“People are playing well to beat the top players, Brady said. “I have a lot of respect for her and she’s a good competitor. I’m looking forward to that match.”
After a day of surprises for the organisers, the only certainty they are left with is that there will be a new name on the winner’s trophy.
FRIDAY’S ORDER OF PLAY
Nicole Gibbs (US) vs Jennifer Brady (US)
Lizette Cabrera (Australia) vs  Daria Gavrilova (Australia)
Wang Qiang (China) vs Samantha Stosur (Australia)
 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia) vs Naomi Osaka (Japan)
Monique Adamczak (Australia)/Chang Kai-chen (Taiwan) vs Desirae Krawczyk (US)/Giuliana Olmos (Mexico)
 Chan Hao-ching (Taiwan)/Chan Yung-jan (Taiwan) vs  Eri Hozumi (Japan)/Miyu Kato (Japan)