World No.1 Naomi Osaka has withdrawn ahead of her quarterfinal clash with No.4 Kiki Bertens at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia due to a right-hand injury. Bertens, a champion at the Mutua Madrid Open just a week ago, received a walkover into the semifinals. The Dutchwoman will face either Johanna Konta or Marketa Vondrousova on Saturday.
Osaka told reporters in Rome that she felt no pain in her right hand during the week, but woke up on Friday with pain and swelling at the base of her right thumb. She tried to practice but was unable to grip her racquet and could not hit a forehand properly.
"I woke up this morning and couldn't really move my thumb," Osaka told reporters. "I tried to practice and grip my racquet but I couldn't, and I kept feeling this pain when I tried to move my hand in different directions.
"Right now I'm really, not mad, but in between sad and disappointed because I really wanted to play my match today. For me, it was sort of a test to play against Kiki because she's playing really well and I wanted to see how well I could do today. So right now, I'm feeling kind of sad."
"I didn't feel anything yesterday. That's why I'm kind of confused right now because I literally woke up in the morning and couldn't move my thumb. So I was like, maybe I slept on it and maybe it will go away, but it didn't."
Osaka's strong clay season has been marred with injury. She was forced to retire ahead of her semifinal at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix three weeks ago due to an abdominal injury, but bounced back well in Madrid to make the biggest clay quarterfinal of her career, where she served for the match but lost to Belinda Bencic 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.
After rain washed out play in Rome on Wednesday, nearly the entire remaining field was in a situation of having to play two matches to advance to the quarterfinals on Thursday. Osaka earned straight-set wins over Dominika Cibulkova and Mihaela Buzarnescu to make her third consecutive quarterfinal on clay. With the wins, Osaka clinched the No.1 ranking and provisional top seed for the French Open, which begins in just over a week in Paris.
"I would describe [my clay season] as 'rocky'," Osaka said. "But I mean, I can't necessarily say it's been ups and downs because if I think about it, it's definitely been going up. Every match that I've played I've learned a lot. I've tried to take what I've learned into the next match and I think I've done that well."
"But the injury part is very annoying. I feel like the ab thing could have been helped, but this one I don't think I could have helped it because I don't know what caused it. I don't know why I have it. I feel there are preventable injuries and ones where you have to just take it how it is."