Tennis

Setback for former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber

Angelique Kerber's preparations for the opening Grand Slam of the year were dealt a blow yesterday when she was forced to retire from the Adelaide International with back pain.

The former world No. 1, who won the Australian Open in 2016, pulled out when trailing 6-3, 2-0 in her second-round clash with Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska.

The ninth seed began showing serious signs of the back problem early in the second set, then stopped after two points in the third game on her own serve, calling for the trainer.

A medical evaluation on court ended with the 31-year-old world No. 18 calling it quits against her teenage opponent.

Yastremska, 19, kept calm during the delay, reading what she called "secret" notes.

"I didn't want to lose focus," said the world No. 24, who has won three titles over the past two seasons.

Swiss wild card Belinda Bencic, the fourth seed, struggled with frustration but emerged a 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/4) winner over Julia Goerges. - AFP

Australian Open qualifiers delayed due to smoke

Australian Open officials delayed the start of play by two hours yesterday, the second day of qualifying, until smoke from regional wild fires cleared.

Smoke and hazy conditions at Melbourne Park on Tuesday affected the opening day's play with organisers criticised for allowing qualifying matches to proceed.

A number of players complained, including Bernard Tomic, who sought medical treatment during his first-round loss when he struggled to breathe.

At the Rod Laver Arena, a capacity crowd of more than 15,000 watched Roger Federer defeat Nick Kyrgios in a one-set finale to the Australian Open's Rally for Relief to aid wildfire charities.

Other players who took part included Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Alexander Zverev.

Tennis Australia said nearly A$5 million (S$4.6m) was raised for victims of recent and ongoing fires in Australia that have killed 28 people and destroyed several thousands homes. - AP

Tennis