Victoria Azarenka won her first title since 2016 by walkover after Japan’s Naomi Osaka pulled out from their final in the Western & Southern Open at Flushing Meadows on Saturday because of a left hamstring injury.
“I’m sorry to have to withdraw today with an injury,” Osaka said in a written statement. “I pulled my left hamstring yesterday in the second-set tiebreak and it has not recovered overnight as I had hoped.
“This has been an emotional week and I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support.”
The 22-year-old two-time Grand Slam winner defeated Belgium’s Elise Mertens on Friday in their semi-final after she had initially said she would not compete in the match in a protest over racial injustice in the United States.
Belarusian Azarenka came through a tough three-setter against Britain’s Johanna Konta to make the final of the tournament which was the final tune-up for the US Open, which starts on Monday.
Meanwhile, despite the nature of her win, the victory is still a milestone for the Belarusian who claims a first singles title since completing the Sunshine Double in 2016. In 2019, she had reached the Monterrey Open finals but had to concede the match part-way against Garbine Muguruza because of a leg injury.
After her Western & Southern Open success, Azarenka will play Austria’s Barbara Haas in the first round at the US Open while Osaka will play fellow Japanese Misaki Doi in the first round.