NEW HAVEN, CT, USA -- Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain moved past another injured opponent on Friday night, when qualifier Monica Puig of Puerto Rico retired from their semifinal due to a left abdominal injury, while the two were deadlocked at 4-4 in the first set.
The Spaniard had just recovered from a break down to get to 4-3 when Puig took a lengthy off-court medical timeout. Puig came back to court upset and clearly hampered, and after Suárez Navarro quickly held for 4-4, Puig decided she was too afflicted by her ab injury to continue.
"I just wanted Monica to be good because nobody wants to lose a Grand Slam, so we only have two or three days to start there," an empathetic Suárez Navarro told the press, after the 34 minutes of play. "But, well, I'm here and I play tomorrow again."
Suárez Navarro moves into the final, where she will face rising Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka. 20-year-old Sabalenka continued her breakout summer by reaching her third final of the year with a semifinal victory over World No.9 Julia Goerges.
"Well, I saw [Sabalenka] all this tournament," said Suárez Navarro. "She's having a really good summer. She beat a lot of Top 10's, a lot of good players. She's with a lot of confidence. It will be a really tough match. She plays aggressive, she serves good. I need to be focused. I need to be 100 percent there, and try to win because it's a final."
— WTA (@WTA) August 24, 2018
Suárez Navarro has had a curious path to her first final of the year; after her straightforward first-round victory over Barbora Strycova, she received a walkover from Johanna Konta in the second round, and then Petra Kvitova retired in their Thursday night quarterfinal after Suárez Navarro had won the first set.
It was another similar situation for the former World No.6 in the semifinal, but it was actually Puig who drew first blood in the match. The Puerto Rican, who won Olympic gold in 2016, clinched the first break of the match, going up 4-2 via two consecutive service return winners.
But the Spaniard swiftly broke back in the next game with strong returns of her own, clawing back on serve after blasting a forehand service return for a clean winner on break point.
“I hope [Monica Puig] can be [at the US Open] and play as well as she did here.”@CarlaSuarezNava sympathizes with her opponent after reaching her first final since winning Doha in 2016. pic.twitter.com/rZx9SLgszT
— WTA (@WTA) August 24, 2018
At this point, Puig took a long medical timeout off court, and when she returned to the court, the qualifier was fighting back tears. Puig tried to muddle through the next game, but Suárez Navarro served her opponent out of position en route to the hold for 4-4, and a disconsolate Puig decided to stop the match.
"It was a bit of an abdominal strain that I started feeling in my second service game," Puig explained, during her post-match press conference. "I just gradually got worse from there."
"The good thing is that I do play Tuesday [at the US Open] in New York," Puig added. "That gives me a little bit of a window to work with my team and get back to feeling good. I'm going to do everything possible. The good thing is that pulling out today, I avoided making it worse."
"I already know what it's like to play with an injury, obviously having a more negative outcome," Puig continued. "I really needed to be careful today. I think I made the right decision."