TOP seed Garbine Muguruza has dramatically pulled out of the Brisbane International, retiring from her opening match with severe cramp.
The Wimbledon champion, who received a first-round bye, was leading in the third set of a tough second-round match against Serbian world No.53 Aleksandra Krunic when she fell to the ground in agony, her right calf visibly bulging.
After attempts to stretch it out, she limped back to her chair with help from medical staff before shaking her opponent's hand.
She retired whilst a break up and at 30-all in the fourth game with the scoreline 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 2-1 after two hours and 26 minutes.
Muguruza's fourth straight withdrawal from the Brisbane event because of injury left tennis commentators stunned.
The Muguruza collapse. pic.twitter.com/whoiVH3Jj2— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 2, 2018
Terrible scenes, as Muguruza is cramping. She is up a break in the 3rd...— José Morgado (@josemorgado) January 2, 2018
Muguruza retires (or withdraws) in Brisbane for the 4th consecutive year. Incredible.— José Morgado (@josemorgado) January 2, 2018
The moments of her collapse and eventual withdrawal from the tournament were covered in full by the Channel 7 cameras.
Krunic, who secured her first main draw win on Australian soil by beating German Carina Witthoeft in the opening round, wished Muguruza a speedy recovery ahead of this month's Australian Open.
"It's definitely not a nice feeling for me as an athlete to see my colleague walk out of the court not being able to finish the match" Krunic said in an on-court interview.
"Even though we can all say we're going to the next round, blah, blah, blah, but still the match is not over and there was a lot of play still for us, for you guys.
"So definitely I'm not happy with what happened today and I just want to wish Garbine a fast recovery. I just hope she gets better for the Slam."
Krunic had made the early breakthrough, moving to a 3-1 lead in the opening set, but Muguruza responded, levelling the first set at 4-4.
The Spanish No.1 seed had to fight hard to break her opponent again and claim the set with her seventh opportunity as Krunic put up some gritty resistance in a final game lasting some 16 minutes and going to 10 deuces.
Krunic claimed another early break to start the second set 2-0 up and even when Muguruza got on a roll to make it 5-2 the Serbian player refused to go away, ultimately forcing the tiebreaker and winning it.
Muguruza sought treatment on her right foot between the second and third sets but returned with an early break of serve to take a 2-0 lead before she was struck down.
Her latest withdrawal is another chapter in a sad Brisbane International record for the world No.2, who stood to reach the top ranking if she made this year's final.
Her planned first appearance in 2015 did not go ahead after an ankle problem worsened during practice for the tournament.
In 2016 a leg injury stopped her in the first set she played, prompting her to retire, and last year she reached the semi-finals before conceding the match with an adductor problem.