PARIS, France - World No.4 Kiki Bertens came into Roland Garros a short-list favorite for the title and a shot at becoming the first Dutchwoman to ever hold the No.1 ranking. She leaves Paris in tears, after succumbing to gastrointestinal illness that forced her to retire from her second-round match against Viktoria Kuzmova.
"Yesterday I felt good," Bertens told reporters. "No problems at all. I was practicing, resting, and I felt really well. Ready for today.
"And then this morning I woke up at 3:00, and then I felt really sick. Vomiting, diarrhea all night long, all day long.
"I felt a little bit better before the match. I had some sleep, and I just wanted to give it a try, but then as soon as I start warming up right before the match, it started again.
"Yeah, there was not any energy left."
Holding back tears as she spoke to both English and Dutch press, Bertens said in retrospect, taking the court might have been a mistake. Down 1-4, Bertens took a seat mid-game after not running for a ball and immediately called for the physio and doctor. She told them she had no energy in her arms and legs and that she was "shaking like hell."
"Raemon said to me [before the match], Okay, you just have to feel yourself, what do you want to do? If you cannot make the decision, I will make it for you.
"But I said, Okay, I just want to give it a try. I was feeling a little bit better before the match, but then, yeah, what I said, as soon as I started running, then, yeah, everything got out again.
"I'm always trying," Bertens said. "You never know what happens on court. I just wanted to give myself the chance to play and see what's happening.
"But no, it was better maybe not to step on the court today."
Bertens was the second withdrawal or retirement due to illness on Wednesday, after Kateryna Kozlova withdrew due to a viral illness ahead of her match against No.9 Elina Svitolina.
For many, Bertens came into the French Open as the second-favorite behind reigning champion Simona Halep. Since 2014, no player has won more matches on clay than Bertens, posting an 81-27 record over that span and she had advanced to the quarterfinal stage or better at six of her last 10 clay events.
The 27-year-old was coming off a fantastic clay streak, having won the biggest title of her career at the Madrid Open and making the semifinals of Rome and Stuttgart. She won her first-round match against Pauline Parmentier, a player against whom she was 0-3 in her career, with a strong straight-set win in which her vaunted serve was never broken.
Bertens was one to beat. Instead, it was her body that betrayed her.
"It's really bad timing, I would call it maybe that," Bertens said. "It's been a great few weeks, and then if you feel like this during a Grand Slam where you felt good. It's just really annoying. I just hope I feel better soon but probably that won't be the case."
After a 13-3 season on clay - she is still entered in one more clay event, the International tournament in Palermo after Wimbledon - Bertens will now regroup for the grass season. She is the top seed at the Libema Open, her home tournament in s'Hertogenbosch, and will be looking to back up her fantastic run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon last year.