SHANGHAI — World number seven Ons Jabeur withdrew from the Zhengzhou Open ahead of her quarter-final against Daria Kasatkina, blaming a knee injury that hampered her during a hard-fought victory over Lucia Bronzetti.
Playing with her right knee taped, the Tunisian three-time Grand Slam finalist failed to serve out the victory on three occasions and needed five match points to move past the 63rd-ranked Italian Bronzetti 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) in just under two hours.
Shortly after her victory, the 29-year-old Jabeur announced she had to pull out of the tournament, handing Kasatkina a walkover into the semi-finals.
Eighth seed Kasatkina beat home player Bai Zhuoxuan 6-2, 6-4.
Having qualified for the WTA Finals for a second consecutive year, Jabeur faces a race against time to be ready for the prestigious season finale, which kicks off in Cancun on Oct 29.
“I’m so sorry that I have to withdraw because my knee is not feeling so great. I just want to say that I love my time here in Zhengzhou and I hopefully I can come back next year,” said the fourth seed according to AFP.
A seesaw opening set saw a combined five breaks of serve but it was Jabeur who carved out a 5-2 gap and the Tunisian took a one-set lead after 45 minutes.
The fourth seed earned a double-break lead in the second set and looked on track for a smooth victory when she served for the match at 5-2.
But Bronzetti had other ideas and snatched the next three games, breaking Jabeur twice to level the frame for five-all, saving a match point along the way.
Jabeur stopped the bleeding as she used her signature drop shot to maximum effect to break Bronzetti and put herself in position to serve for the win for a third time.
Still the North African could not close it out as Bronzetti saved three more match points and broke serve on a Jabeur double-fault to take the set into a tie-break.
Jabeur finally closed out the 74-minute second set, and the contest, on her fifth match point.
Kasatkina also had to overcome a second-set fightback from her opponent and needed four match points before she completed a 90-minute victory over 117th-ranked Bai.
The 26-year-old Russian, who has lost her last five matches to Jabeur, will now move directly into the final four, where she awaits former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova or Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Laura Siegemund upset 11th seed and recent Beijing runner-up Liudmila Samsonova 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 to book a quarter-final against Italian Jasmine Paolini.
The 35-year-old German delivered passing shots on the line hit at full stretch, drop shots reflexed off full-power Samsonova drives and delightful touch at net to reel Samsonova in. No.113-ranked Siegemund notched her first Top 20 win on hard courts since defeating Marketa Vondrousova at the 2020 US Open, and advanced to her second quarter-final of the year. The former World No.27 is guaranteed to return to the Top 100 next week.