In-form world number seven Anett Kontaveit cruised into the Sydney Classic semi-finals Thursday after top-10 opponent Ons Jabeur retired hurt in a blow to her Australian Open preparations.
The Estonian fourth seed won a tight first set 6-4 before the Tunisian called for a medical timeout and after lengthy treatment on a lower back injury forfeited the match.
It is a big setback for Jabeur just days before the opening Grand Slam of the year. She had a breakthrough 2021, winning her maiden WTA singles title and surging into the top 10 for the first time.
Kontaveit will now play world number four Czech Barbora Krejcikova, who crushed France's Caroline Garcia 6-0, 6-2, for a place in Saturday's final.
"It's never the way you want to win and I really hope Ons is going to be fine for next week and that's it's nothing too serious," said the Estonian.
"The first set was really competitive and we've had some tough matches before and she's always come out on top, so it was good to get the set and that I was playing the way I was playing."
The understated Kontaveit is shaping up as a serious contender at Melbourne Park after her electric form in the second half of last season, capturing four titles in two months before ending runner-up at the WTA Finals to Garbine Muguruza.
She will be seeded six and heads into the tournament under the wing of new coach Dmitry Tursunov.
"He helps me see things in a more positive way on court and just really believing in myself that wasn't there before," she said. "He's helped tremendously."
Spanish world number three Muguruza faces Russia's Daria Kasatkina later Thursday for a place in the semi-finals
The last four line-up will be completed when fellow Spaniard and fifth seed Paula Badosa meets Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Belinda Bencic.
Swiss world number 23 Bencic won her round of 16 match Thursday 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 against Oceane Dodin of France.
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