Serena Williams has pulled out of the Internazionali d'Italia tournament in Rome, citing an Achilles injury.

The US Open semi-finalist entered the WTA Tour event with the intention of gaining match practice on clay before the upcoming French Open.

That delayed grand slam takes place from September 27 to October 11 in Paris, switched from its original May start due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Williams fell short in her bid to land a record-equalling 24th grand slam when she was edged out by Victoria Azarenka in New York this week, when she needed medical assistance for the Achilles pain.

She stressed afterwards that she intended to play the French Open, but the Rome event, which begins on Monday, has now been scratched from her plans.

Former world number one Williams said in a statement released by the WTA: "I regretfully must withdraw from the Internazionali BNL d'Italia due to an Achilles strain."

Petra Kvitova and Bianca Andreescu will also be absent from the tournament after the WTA announced their withdrawals.

Simona Halep is among those returning to action, however, with the world number two having opted to miss the US Open due to concerns related to the pandemic.

Defending champion Bianca Andreescu became the latest high-profile player to opt out of the US Open on Thursday.

Andreescu has not played on the WTA Tour since October due to knee trouble and the 20-year-old says a lack of match practice, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, means she is not ready to return in New York.

The Canadian's withdrawal comes after Rafael Nadal, the 2019 men's singles champion, pulled out due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Andreescu posted on social media: "After many discussions with those closest to me, I have made the difficult decision not to return to New York this year.

"I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level.

"The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there.

"However, I realise that the unforeseen challenges, including the COVID pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.

"I want to express my appreciation to the USTA and the WTA for all of their efforts in making the event happen. I look forward to joining my competitors back on court soon."

Bianca Andreescu will not return from her troublesome knee injury in time to defend her Indian Wells title next week.

The Canadian claimed the first championship of her WTA Tour career in California last year, kickstarting an outstanding 2019 season.

Andreescu claimed the Rogers Cup and then triumphed at the US Open, before a knee problem at the WTA Finals dealt her the latest setback of an injury-plagued career.

The world number four has not played since and will not be able to make her season debut at the upcoming WTA Premier tournament either, she revealed on Saturday.

"As many of you know, I've been working through an injury I suffered last year during the WTA Finals," Andreescu said.

"It's been a long road to recovery and, while I was looking forward to getting back on court and defending my title at Indian Wells, unfortunately I'm still not 100 per cent.

"I would like to thank you all for your continued support and [for] sticking with me on this journey. Your kind words have been so uplifting.

"While I am disappointed that I am not competing next week in a tournament where I have such great memories, I am focused on my recovery and rehab and working hard to get back on the court as soon as possible."

Bianca Andreescu has further delayed her comeback after withdrawing from the Dubai Tennis Championships, where Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza has been handed a wild card.

US Open champion Andreescu suffered a knee injury at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen last October during a match against Karolina Pliskova and has since pulled out of the Auckland Classic and Australian Open in 2020.

She had hoped to represent Canada in their Fed Cup qualifying tie in Switzerland last week but ended up not playing there and has now revealed the WTA Premier event in Dubai will also come too soon for her.

"I'm very sad to announce that I won't be able to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next week," Andreescu said on Wednesday.

"I'm not at 100 per cent yet and, following my team and doctor's recommendation, I don't want to take any risk to re-injure my knee. 

"Each day I get closer to being back to the court competing, but Dubai is just too soon. Hope I can come and play in Dubai next year."

Muguruza will join the field, though, after landing a wild card for the tournament, which begins next Monday and will also feature the returning Kim Clijsters.

"Garbine has been ranked as high as number one in the world and is clearly once again playing at the very top of her game," said tournament director Salah Tahlak. 

"In the 20th year of the WTA event in Dubai, we can all look forward to seeing if she can become our 14th ladies' champion in what is certain to be a fascinating week."

Simona Halep will be the top seed, with Pliskova and Elina Svitolina involved along with defending champion Belinda Bencic and Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin.

US Open champion Bianca Andreescu will make a late decision on whether to make her injury comeback when Canada face Switzerland in the Fed Cup qualifiers.

Andreescu has not played since injuring her knee in her match against Karolina Pliskova at the WTA Finals at the end of October.

She pulled out of the Auckland Classic and then the Australian Open as her start to 2020 was delayed by her recovery, having also struggled with a host of other injury issues last year.

Andreescu is in Biel with her Canada team-mates for the Switzerland tie, which will be played over February 7 and 8.

World number five Belinda Bencic, who Andreescu beat in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows, is one of her possible opponents this week.

"She has been training and she is improving every day – we are taking it day by day," said Canada captain Heidi El Tabakh.

"We know that, for this tie, time is against her, but she's been making a lot of improvements.

"She still has a couple of days left. As of right now, we haven't made any decisions yet about the team, but we will when the time comes."

Andreescu told Tennis Canada: "I think there's still a chance. We haven't made any decisions yet but I'm hoping I can play."

Switzerland are preparing as if Andreescu will play in the tie, which is one of eight contests which will decide the teams to join Australia, France, Czech Republic and Hungary for the inaugural Fed Cup Finals in Budapest in April.

"I have to assume Bianca Andreescu is going to walk out there and compete because why else would she be here?" said Switzerland captain Heinz Guenthardt.

"Nobody knows how well she'll compete - probably even she doesn't know that.

"It's a different thing to practice and then walk out there and play a Fed Cup tie. 

"It doesn't sound like a very thought out answer, but in the case of this week particularly we're just going to try to focus on ourselves.

"We have a good group. Belinda is obviously our number one and then we have four players who can on their given day represent Switzerland."

The qualifying round contains some impressive line-ups, with Serena Williams, Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and teen star Coco Gauff among the United States team playing Latvia, while Naomi Osaka leads Japan against Spain.

Bianca Andreescu has withdrawn from the Australian Open because of a knee problem.

Andreescu sustained the injury at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in October, from which she withdrew after retiring in her match with Karoliona Pliskova.

The Canadian, who stunned Serena Williams in the final of the 2019 US Open, explained that she and her doctors decided she had not made enough progress in her rehabilitation to play at the year's first grand slam in Melbourne.

In a post on Twitter, she wrote: "Hey guys, just wanted to give you a little update on my knee rehab after I got injured at the WTA finals in Shenzhen.

"My rehab is going well, I feel better and stronger every day but after discussing it with my team and following the recommendation of the doctors, the Australian Open is unfortunately too soon in my rehab process and I sadly will not be able to play in it this year.

"It was a very tough decision to make as I love to play in Melbourne but I have to respect the recuperation plan for my knee and body. I can’t wait to come back to Aus soon."

Andreescu's incredible victory at Flushing Meadows was the highlight of a superb 2019 for the 19-year-old, which saw her rise to number four in the world. She has since dropped to number six.

The teenager also claimed glory at Indian Wells and the Rogers Cup and enjoyed a 17-match winning streak in which she did not lose a single completed contest, with a run that started in March finally ended by Naomi Osaka in October at the China Open.

Her withdrawal will remove a significant obstacle for defending champion Osaka, as well as the likes of Williams, Ash Barty and Simona Halep, as Andreescu focuses on her continued recovery and the French Open.

Aside from her run in New York, Andreescu has never gone beyond the second round of a major and will hope she is fit enough to change that fact at Roland Garros in May.

US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has delayed the start of her season by withdrawing from the Auckland Open.

Andreescu was due to take part in the WTA Tour event, which runs from January 6-12, alongside a strong field that includes Serena Williams and Coco Gauff.

But the Canadian will instead take further time to recuperate from the knee injury she sustained at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in October, with ensuring full fitness for the upcoming Australian Open a likely factor in her decision.

Andreescu, the world number five, released a video on social media expressing her sorrow at having to withdraw from an event she was runner-up in at the start of this year.

"I'm super disappointed about it," the 19-year-old said.

"But I spoke to my team and I really have to do what's best for my knee right now. 

"I have so many amazing memories there, so hopefully I can create more in 2021."

Bianca Andreescu has set her sights on becoming world number one and representing Canada at the Olympic Games in 2020.

Andreescu enjoyed a breakthrough 2019 in which she lost only seven of her 55 matches and completed an incredible run at the US Open, stunning Serena Williams in the final with a performance belying her tender years.

The 19-year-old, who retired from the WTA Finals because of a knee injury, collected the Lou Marsh Trophy this week as she was named Canada's athlete of the year.

Speaking at a media conference after being presented with the award, Andreescu told a media conference: "I don't know how 2020 can get better than 2019.

"If I could choose something it would be to accomplish my ultimate goal, which is to become number one in the world and hopefully win another grand slam and stay healthy as much as possible."

On her hopes of competing for her country in Tokyo, Andreescu told reporters: "I think there's a very good chance for me to be able to participate.

"I've watched the Olympics ever since I could remember, ever since I was a little girl so, if I do get that opportunity, it's going to be the best because I spoke to many athletes that were in the Olympics before and they've told me that it was the best experience of their life so if I get there it's going to be fun."

The next major event on the horizon for Andreescu is the Australian Open, for which she is the second favourite behind Williams.

"Every tournament I go into I want to win it," she said of her approach for the first grand slam of 2020.

"I'm just going to do the best I can to prepare, hopefully my knee's good and hopefully I can bring the trophy home."

Coco Gauff will do battle against the likes of Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu on the first week of the new WTA Tour season after signing up to play in the Auckland Open.

The 15-year-old sensation is limited in the number of tournaments she can play before turning 16 but has opted to play the WTA International event in New Zealand.

Gauff won her first senior title at the Linz Open last month and will use the Auckland tournament, which begins on January 6, as part of her preparation for the Australian Open.

US Open finalists Andreescu and Williams are also scheduled to be part of the field, meaning Gauff could meet either during the tournament, along with two-time defending champion Julia Goerges.

Gauff's success this year included a famous run to the fourth round of Wimbledon, where she became the youngest player in the Open era to come through the qualifying rounds to reach the main draw. Her exploits helped to secure a year-end ranking of 68.

She told the tournament website: "I can’t wait to start my season in Auckland. 2019 was such an incredible year and I achieved so many of the goals that I had set for myself. Wimbledon was obviously a highlight as was capturing my first WTA title.

"So many players talk about Auckland. I have not been before so this will be cool to experience."

Bianca Andreescu is confident she made the right call to retire from her WTA Finals match against Karolina Pliskova as she prepares for a scan on her left knee.

The US Open champion fell to a third consecutive defeat, following a sequence of 17 straight wins, as she quit the Purple Group clash with Pliskova after losing the first set 6-3.

Andreescu had been badly hobbling since early in the match when she "heard a crack" as she returned the ball while up a break.

She initially refused to retire but, speaking afterwards, having confirmed her intention to have an MRI on Thursday, the 19-year-old was content with her decision.

"I stepped weirdly on a return," Andreescu told a post-match press conference. "I heard my knee crack. It kind of went inwards.

"Putting pressure afterwards on it really bothered me. I could barely bend my knee. But I fought with the pain as much as I could. 

"At some point, an athlete has to say, 'Stop', and just listen to their body. That's what I did.

"It's disappointing because this is the last tournament of the year, so you want to go all out. You're playing one of the biggest tournaments of the year, too. It's not easy.

"I've never had a during-match injury happen before - other than spraining my ankle, but that was back in 2015.

"Honestly, I really didn't know what to do. I've fought through pain before, but this was different. It was like very acute.

"But it's the last tournament of the year. I just told myself, 'Push it as much as you can. You're going to have a good break after this.' Maybe I could have pushed it more. I don't know. 

"My team said no. It was good that I stopped. Honestly, I could have kept going. If I did, then I would just be whining on the court. I don't want that. I've done that enough."

Andreescu's defeat to Pliskova saw her hopes of progress end at the season-ending Finals, meaning she can decide whether to face Elina Svitolina, who is already through, to conclude her breakout campaign.

Canadian Andreescu won titles in 2019 at Indian Wells, the Rogers Cup and Flushing Meadows, climbing to number four in the WTA rankings.

Bianca Andreescu failed to shake off a knee injury as she fell to a third straight defeat and departed the WTA Finals, where defending champion Elina Svitolina advanced from the Purple Group.

US Open champion Andreescu, still just 19, had been enjoying an incredible 17-match winning run on the WTA Tour until coming up short in a gripping encounter against Naomi Osaka at the China Open.

The Canadian did not play again until this week's year-end Finals, making a losing return in a narrow defeat to idol Simona Halep.

And any hopes of Andreescu arresting that mini-slump were ended by an issue with her left knee in Shenzhen as she bowed out to world number two Karolina Pliskova.

Andreescu, needing to win to stay in the tournament, broke in the first game of the match but was soon limping, retreating to her seat and calling a medical timeout.

Heavy strapping was applied to the teenager's knee, yet she continued to move uneasily as she sought to continue, seeing Pliskova break back immediately.

Andreescu told Sylvain Bruneau she "heard a crack" and was struggling to bend her knee but insisted she was still capable of beating Pliskova despite the advice of her coach.

"I don't want to stop," she said. "If it was against Simona, then okay. But [Pliskova] misses."

Andreescu showed grit to then hold after saving three break points, but it was only a temporary reprieve as Pliskova sent down a backhand return to seize the advantage in her opponent's next service game.

Pliskova held to take the set 6-3 and Andreescu finally gave in, retiring for a defeat that sees her out of the competition as the Czech faces Halep for a place in the last four.

Halep had wasted an opportunity to book her spot in the semi-finals early on Wednesday when she was beaten 7-5 6-3 by Svitolina.

The Wimbledon champion battled back from 3-0 down early on but then missed the chance to break in front with a poor call on a drop shot, subsequently losing the opener with an error-strewn final service game.

Having been behind throughout the first set, Halep led in the second with a break to love but was quickly pegged back, soon complaining to coach Darren Cahill that she felt unable to disrupt Svitolina's game.

Svitolina, who defeated Sloane Stephens in the 2018 final, preyed on more Halep mistakes to break in front and wrapped up a relatively comfortable triumph in straight sets.

Simona Halep came from a set down to claim a gripping 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 victory over Bianca Andreescu at the WTA Finals.

Halep was forced to hang in the contest as Andreescu breezed her way to the opener and was afforded match point before the second set went to a tiebreak.

But 28-year-old's trademark tenacity gradually pulled the argument in her favour as her ebullient foe was compromised by back problems down the stretch.

Andreescu had spoken of her excitement at facing Halep for the first time in her career but this did not extend to reverence of any sort during the contest.

The 19-year-old's blistering ground strokes were to the fore, but she also played with a variety that never allowed Halep to settle during an opening set she won in 39 minutes.

Halep secured an early break in the second but ceded it when Andreescu pulled level at 4-4 – the game after the Wimbledon champion was seemingly irritated by her opponent pulling off a through-the-legs tweener shot.

Andreescu was unable to take a match point at advantage on the Halep serve and the Romanian raced into a 3-0 lead in the tie-break.

Halep then converted her third set point, after which Andreescu received treatment for the first time.

When the trainer came on again immediately before a break for Halep, Andreescu's race appeared to be run – only for her to stunningly get back on terms to 15.

A third straight break followed, however, and Halep would not be denied, clattering home the first of three match points to conclude a captivating two-and-a-half hours.

Up next for Halep in the Purple Group is Elina Svitolina, who began the defence of her title with a straight-sets win over Karolina Pliskova, a titanic first-set tie-break proving pivotal to a 7-6 (14-12) 6-4 win.

Pliskova broke in the opening game but too often produced lackadaisical tennis as she failed to build upon the advantage, not least when Svitolina took the second of two break points for 2-2.

A breaker of epic proportions was eventually taken by Svitolina, the frontrunner throughout converting a seventh set point having only had to save one conceded to Pliskova.

The Czech won three straight games from 2-0 down in the second but Svitolina broke back for 3-3 and came through some stern examinations of her serve before sealing victory when Pliskova sent a return into the net.

Simona Halep is looking forward to testing herself against rising star and US Open champion Bianca Andreescu at the WTA Finals.

At the 2016 Rogers Cup, when Andreescu was still a junior, the Canadian of Romanian descent met Halep, already an established name, and asked her for advice.

Andreescu subsequently turned professional but has not had the opportunity to take on her idol on the WTA Tour ahead of the Finals in Shenzhen, where they have been drawn together and will face off on Monday.

Romanian Halep has been impressed by Andreescu's progression and now, tasked with playing one of the tour's outstanding performers of 2019, she hopes to measure up.

"It's amazing what [Andreescu] has done," Halep told reporters. "To win a grand slam at 19, play few tournaments and win them, it's a great, great job.

"I just want to tell her that she deserved it because she played really well these tournaments.

"I'm excited also to face her. It's going to be a big challenge for me because this year was up and down a lot. I just have a very big up during the Wimbledon [winning her second major], and the rest was not that great.

"I'm not thinking about winning or losing here. I just want to be able to play the matches."

Andreescu, the youngest player at the Finals, is one of three debutants - alongside Ashleigh Barty and Belinda Bencic.

Petra Kvitova, the oldest player in the draw, sees this as part of the changing face of women's tennis, and she expects each of the three women new to the event to regularly visit the end-of-year showpiece.

"I just realised that I'm the oldest one of them, which feels pretty weird," said 29-year-old Kvitova. "But I'm going to take it.

"I spoke with Simona, she's just one year younger, and we made some fun of it. There are people here for the first time, but not the last time probably.

"We are going to see them often, I think. Yeah, I mean the new faces are coming. It's normal that the generation is just changing."

World number one Ashleigh Barty has been drawn to face Naomi Osaka in the round-robin stage of the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

French Open champion and top seed Barty will come up against two-time grand slam winners Osaka and Petra Kvitova, along with seventh seed Belinda Bencic in the Red Group.

Barty was on Friday announced as the winner of the Race to Shenzhen ahead of Karolina Pliskova and hopes to celebrate by being crowned champion in her singles debut at the season-ending tournament in China.

"It was already an honour to qualify for the WTA Finals, but to also finish the Race to Shenzhen on top is an achievement I'm incredibly proud of," the Australian said. 

"This is a special tournament for myself and my team and I’ll be fighting hard to finish the WTA season with the Shenzhen title."

Pliskova will take on defending champion Elina Svitolina, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu in the Purple Group.

US Open champion Andreescu and 22-year-old Swiss Bencic will be making their debuts in the tournament.

Osaka and Kvitova meet in the first match of the event on Sunday.

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