Peng Shuai retires from US Open in tears
Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai's US Open dream ended on Friday with her being taken from the court in agony, in tears and in a wheelchair.
The 28-year-old retired from her semi-final match against Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki due to a heat-related illness.
She was trailing Wozniacki 7-6 (7/1) 4-3 when she needed to leave the Arthur Ashe Stadium to seek treatment – believed then to be for cramping – and play was held up for 10 minutes.
Peng returned, played a few points but then collapsed to the ground before being escorted away by medical staff and officials.
She said at the press conference LAter: "The weather was very hot, my body was hot too, and I started to get cramps, it’s really hurting, I couldn't even move on the court. So the doctor said to me, ‘You are not able really to go out to fight and compete, because you don’t look well’."
"But I said, ‘No, no, no, I don’t want to give up. I want to try one more time'."
She added: "And then I come back. I know I’m not going to stay too long, but I just wanted to try to challenge her one more time."
"The doctors did an overall checkup on me, and they will give me further therapy, but I don’t think it’s an injury scare, it’s just that my body needs more time for rest."
Wozniacki went over to Peng to console her opponent in her moment of agony.
"It was really hard to watch... whenever I saw her collapse on the court. Tennis is great, but health is more important. I just wanted to make sure she was okay," said the former world number one.
Wozniacki will face world number one and five-time champion Serena Williams in Sunday’s final.
Williams said she was “saddened” by the scenes.
"I saw it when I was warming up for the match. I was really saddened by it. She’s such a great person. We train sometimes at the same academy. It didn’t make me happy at all. You never want to see anyone go out like that. I’m just hoping she’s better," said the American.
Chinese netizens hailed Peng as the "pride" of the country, with fans extolling her journey from childhood heart surgery to Grand Slam semi-final.
Peng, from China’s Hunan province, began playing aged eight, but a childhood heart defect meant she could not over-exert herself.
Against the wishes of her family, she underwent a complicated operation at the age of 12 in the hopes of continuing her dream.
Peng has won two Grand Slam doubles titles – the 2013 Wimbledon Championships and the 2014 French Open. In February, she became the first person from China to attain a top ranking when she became the world’s number one doubles player.
Peng was the third Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.
Her withdrawal was one of the most discussed topics on Sina Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging service similar to Twitter, generating more than 40 million comments, including re-posts.
Peng’s coach Alan Ma said exhaustion was the reason for the withdrawal.
"Peng played too many matches in the first half season. She had to play singles and doubles here as well. Although she won the previous matches in straight sets, but they were also high-quality and tough ones, it’s not as easy as the scoreboards showed. I think Peng was playing beyond her limits both at physical and mental levels," he said.
"But it’s not an injury, we will compete the Asian tour as planned, including the China Open in Beijing," he added.
Sources: AFP, Xinhua