Ash Barty says she's heartbroken after her French Open dream was crushed by a debilitating hip injury which forced her to retire in pain during her second round match with Poland's Magda Linette.
The world no.1's bid to regain the title she won in 2019 ended in hugely anti-climactic circumstances on Thursday as she looked a shadow of herself on Court Philippe Chatrier, struggling to move freely, hitting weak serves and in obvious discomfort.
After losing the first set 6-1, she underwent a medical timeout to see if she could somehow battle through the match but, after a brief revival at the start of the second set, cut a despondent figure as she offered her hand to Linette with the scores locked at 2-2.
It was a desperate end to Barty's dream of winning back the title after giving her defence a miss in COVID-hit 2020 - and she admitted there had been tears this week as she'd battled to get fit.
Ultimately, though, she reckoned the "acute" injury that she picked up in practice at the weekend had made it "unsafe" for her to carry on.
"It's heartbreaking," she said.
"We've had such a brilliant claycourt season, and to get a little bit unlucky with the timing of this injury, with something acute happening over the weekend and just running out of time, it's disappointing.
"But It won't take away the brilliant three months that we have had, as much as it hurts right now.
"I've had my fair share of tears this week. It's all good. Everything happens for a reason. There will be a silver lining in this eventually."
Barty, who'd won three tournaments on her global tour en route to Paris, admitted that it had been a "small miracle" that she'd managed to get through her opening round against Bernarda Pera, during which she'd also needed a medical timeout.
This time, though, the pain was there from the start.
"I just tried to give myself a chance, tried to give myself a chance and see how it felt," she shrugged.
Linette, the world No.45, had told AAP before the match that she wouldn't be distracted by all the talk of the Australian's injury and proved true to her word, earning a break to go 3-1 ahead as Barty's movement was clearly nowhere near as fluent as usual.
The Queenslander visibly winced during the sixth game, trying to stretch to reach a half-volley and she couldn't get any pop on her usually excellent serve because she had no drive from her legs.
By the end of the opening set, Barty was already reduced to trying to keep the rallies as short as possible but the errors kept flying from her racquet, 14 in all in the opening stanza.
By the time Linette produced the decisive drop shot to take the first set in just 26 minutes, the usually fleet-footed Barty could hardly even run and didn't try to chase it down.
After going off for some lengthy treatment, she returned with an improved, faster serve and, briefly, looked as if she might be up for the fight.
It proved an illusion and Linette winning the fourth game was the final straw.
"It was just becoming too much. Right from the first game, I was battling the pain, and it just became too severe, and was becoming unsafe," Barty said.
"It was a decision, just a tough one, that had to be done.
"We had a fantastic lead-up. And for my body to let me down is really disheartening, but knowing that we also did nothing wrong. It's something that can't be explained at this time."