French Open: Karin Knapp into the second round after Victoria Azarenka retirement

The first round match that took place on Court 1 on Tuesday afternoon, between the Belarusian world number five Victoria Azarenka and the Italian number 118 Karin Knapp was sadly tainted by the knee injury the Belarusian suffered in the third game of the match.

Azarenka, clearly in pain after a wrong move at the end of the second game of the first set, continued playing and seemed to be moving and playing well for a couple of games but she soon started committing countless unforced errors and lost the first set 6-3. She fought back in the second despite needing a medical time-out in the middle of the seventh game and managed to clinch it in a tiebreak but in the final set, a tearing Azarenka couldn't run anymore and she decided to retire at 4-0 after 2 hours and 17 minutes of play.  

Knapp Wins Five Games in a Row to Take the First Set

The first set started with both women winning their first service games and then, right before the third game was about to start, the 5th seed Azarenka, had to stop and was stretching her leg and touching her right knee. When play resumed, the two-time Grand Slam champion, seemed to be moving ok and she actually managed to break her opponent's serve in that third game and then consolidated the break with a good service game.

3-1 up on the scoreboard, Azarenka looked to be the likely winner of the set, but at that point, she suddenly started sending her backhands and forehands long and just couldn't find the court and 3-1 quickly became 6-3 for her opponent. 

Azarenka Clinches the Second Set by the Skin of her Teeth

The Belarusian started the second well, just like she did in the first set, and got an early break to go up 2-0. At that point, she started missing again and got broken right back. The Italian consolidated the break and leveled the set to 2-2 and even had two break points to go up 3-2 up, but Azarenka, with aggressive play, caused her to commit errors and she managed to hold. Knapp wasn't fazed by the missed opportunity and she held her serve in the next game. At 3-3 15-0, Azarenka called for the trainer and got a medical time-out for her right knee injury. The Belarusian, who is no stranger to injuries like this, was hoping it was not serious and she could continue to play.

When play resumed after the medical time-out, both players held their service games and it was 4-4. In the ninth game, though, the fifth seed couldn't find her range and after two unforced errors and one forced error, Knapp had three break points. Azarenka saved the first two but double faulted on the third and the Italian was now serving for the match. The nerves got to the number 118 and she gifted Azarenka with two break points and the Belarusian capitalized on the first. In the 11th game, she couldn't consolidate the break and was broken right back.

Frustrated, Azarenka smashed her racket during the changeover and got a racket abuse violation. She used the anger to her advantage and broke back in the 12th game and forced a tiebreaker. The tiebreak was very tight, in a similar manner to the rest of the set, and the lead kept exchanging hands. Knapp found herself with a match point, on Azarenka's serve at 5-6, but she missed it and Azarenka won the next two points and clinched the set 7-6 (6).

Azarenka Forced to Retire after Four Games

In the third set, the number five could hardly move, let alone run to balls and was starting to tear up. It was clear to everyone watching in the crowd or at home that it was only a matter of time until she withdrew and indeed, she did just so after losing 4 games in a row. Knapp is now into the second round with a 6-3, 6-7(6), 4-0 win over the injured Belarusian and she will next face Anastasija Sevastova from Latvia, who beat Sachia Vickery from the United States. As for Azarenka, she will hope her injury is not serious and she recovers in time for Wimbledon

.(Victoria Azarenka, the 5th seed in Paris, had to retire at 4-0 in the 3rd and final set and she is out of the tournament in the first round (photo by Julian Finney/Getty
Victoria Azarenka, the 5th seed in Paris, had to retire at 4-0 in the 3rd and final set and she is out of the tournament in the first round (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty).

A Look at the Final Match Statistics

The final match statistics are pretty irrelevant in this case, seeing Azarenka's injury decided the match, but in any case, the statistics show that the fifth seed had too many unforced errors (36) and double faults (eight) and not enough winners or aces to make up for them (only 23 winners and no aces). She also gave her opponent 16 break point opportunities, of which Knapp won seven. The Italian, on the other hand, played well overall and had a positive ratio of winners to unforced errors (+10) and aces to double faults (+3).