BRITISH No 1 Laura Robson’s return to tennis at the Hobart International was ended when she retired from her first-round match against Yanina Wickmayer due to injury.
Robson was playing her first match of the season after a wrist problem forced her out of the ASB Classic in Auckland.
The 19-year-old won the first set 6-4 but, after serving a double fault to gift her Belgian opponent an early break in the second, she pulled out of the match.
It is a further setback for Robson ahead of the Australian Open, which gets under way in her birth city of Melbourne on 13 January. Prior to the match, Robson had told the tournament’s official website: “It’s going to be my first match for 2014, so I’m very excited. I haven’t played a match so I don’t know how it is going to end up, but in practice it feels okay.”
A post on the tournament’s official Twitter feed then indicated Robson’s injury was a recurrence of the previous problem. It read: “The official reason for Robson’s mid-match retirement today was her wrist.”
Australia’s Samantha Stosur failed to allay fears she could be heading for another early exit at her home grand slam with a scrappy performance in Hobart while a trio of big names tumbled out of the Sydney International.
Double grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and French Open winner Francesca Schiavone crashed out of the first round in Sydney, while former world number one Jelena Jankovic also booked an early flight to Melbourne for next week’s Australian Open.
Stosur appeared on course to become the third grand slam winner to lose on Monday when she struggled at the Hobart International before the top seed overcame two lengthy rain delays, chilly conditions and stubborn American Madison Brengle.
The 23-year-old Brengle won the first set in a tiebreak before Stosur managed to run away with the second and then claimed the third set tiebreak on her fifth match point to clinch the 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) victory.
Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion, has struggled on home soil in the past five years, having not advanced beyond the fourth round, with six first round exits in 14 tournaments in Sydney, Brisbane and the Australian Open.
She lost all three of her matches in the Hopman Cup in Perth before entering Hobart, which had attracted a strong field before a wrist injury forced Italy’s Flavia Pennetta to join Venus Williams on the sidelines.
Russia’s Kuznetsova, who had a good second half of 2013 to enter the Sydney tournament inside the top 20 after battling back from knee injuries in 2012, was surprisingly beaten 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 by American lucky loser Varvara Lepchenko. Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, lost 6-4, 6-4 to Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic. The 33-year-old Italian was also knocked out of the first round of the Brisbane tournament last week by Jankovic.
Serbia’s Jankovic, the fourth seed in Sydney, was unable to repeat her semi-final run in Brisbane and was swept aside 6-4, 6-2 by Russian left hander Ekaterina Makarova, who used her big ground strokes to move the world number eight around the court.
“I tried to be aggressive and not let her attack, because she’s really good playing down the line from the backhand,” Makarova told the tournament website.
“So I tried to move her to the backhand, not to stand and hit it. I was just thinking that it would be a really long match, every point is really long because she never miss those easy balls.
Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, playing for the first time since announcing her engagement to golfer Rory McIlroy, overcame a tough challenge from Germany’s Julia Goerges before she clinched a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory to set up a second round showdown against Safarova.
American Jack Sock vindicated Auckland Open organisers’ decision to give him a wild card with a 6-3 6-4 victory over France’s Adrian Mannarino to set up a second round clash against second seed Tommy Haas of Germany.