Simona Halep has warmed up for the French Open by winning the Italian Open after Karolina Pliskova was forced to retire hurt in the final.
Down 6-0, 2-1, a clearly hampered Pliskova pulled the pin and walked to the net to concede the match to Halep.
'DISGUSTING': Tennis fans erupt over fresh Djokovic drama
The Czech player looked devastated as she sat in her chair, burying her face in her towel.
“I wanted to try, I wanted to fight, but, unfortunately, wasn’t able to continue and be competitive,” Pliskova said after the match.
“I was forced to retire from the match due to injury for the first time in my professional career and it’s hard to deal with it.”
1/2— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) September 21, 2020
I wanted to try, I wanted to fight, but, unfortunately, wasn’t able to continue and be competitive. I was forced to retire from the match due to injury for the first time in my professional career and it’s hard to deal with it 😓 pic.twitter.com/g93nkNsB4G
Victory gave Halep her first title in Rome and her third consecutive title of the year after wins in Dubai - before the COVID-19 hiatus - and Prague last month.
Pliskova attempted to continue playing after receiving treatment on her lower back and leg between sets but eventually decided to retire, not willing to take any chances before the French Open which begins on September 27.
“I know that's not the way how Karolina wanted to finish the tournament and the final,” Halep said at the trophy presentation ceremony.
“Good luck in the French Open, hopefully we will meet again there in the final.
“Finally, after two finals I could win this title. I love this tournament and I'm really happy that I have this beautiful trophy in my hands now,” she added, having lost the final in 2017 and 2018.
Fans devastated by Karolina Pliskova’s retirement
Halep raced into a 5-0 lead in the opening set, breaking the Czech defending champion three times and the Romanian also saved three break points at 0-40 down in the fourth game.
Halep, who even shook off a hard fall in the second game, was at her aggressive and disciplined best while Pliskova looked sluggish with her on-court movement, failing to hit a single winner as she was bagelled in 20 minutes.
The limited number of fans allowed into Foro Italico's centre court urged Pliskova to make it a contest, applauding the rare points she got on the score board and it seemed to work as the second set started with the pair breaking each other.
However, Pliskova was clearly struggling with the injury and retired after she was broken for a fifth time to give Halep the trophy.
I hope Pliskova feels better soon. Sad to finish the tournament like this, but Simona Halep is your @InteBNLdItalia champion 💪❤— Crina (@sportswithcrina) September 21, 2020
OH MY GOD There's no match to watch anymore. So sad for Pliskova. https://t.co/4XkcuPoore— Maisie123 (@The_OddOneOut4) September 21, 2020
Sad to see Pliskova start hurt. Then Halep's game is brutal on opponents. That clay looked rough. Hope the french clay is better.— chuckwillsauthor (@chuckwroteit) September 21, 2020
I know it hurts, Kaja, especially being the first time, but you made the most sensible decision your health. Now you will be able to recover sooner than if you had kept playing. I love you and I'm very much excited to see what you can do in Roland Garros. Hugs from Spain 😍— Cristian (@Doural28) September 21, 2020
I am shocked at this match. I genuinely thought Pliskova was winning this title.— Andrew Atkinson (@atkinsonfasho) September 21, 2020
Halep, who chose to skip the hardcourt swing in the United States to practice on clay, will head to Roland Garros as one of the firm favourites with World No.1 Ash Barty and US Open champion Naomi Osaka both skipping the tournament this year.
Novak Djokovic makes history in men’s final
On the men’s side, World No.1 Novak Djokovic bounced back from his US Open disqualification scandal to beat Diego Schwartzman in the final.
Djokovic beat Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 to win his fifth Italian Open title, passing childhood idol Pete Sampras for the second-most weeks at No.1 with 287 - trailing only Roger Federer's 310 weeks in the top spot - and re-asserting his dominance before the French Open.
With his 36th Masters 1000 title, Djokovic also moves one ahead of Nadal atop the all-time list.
Djokovic improved to 31-1 this year - with his only loss against Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round of the US Open.
That, of course, was when Djokovic unintentionally hit a line judge in the throat with a ball in a fit of anger - resulting in him being thrown out.