(Reuters) - World number one Serena Williams withdrew from the Wuhan Open on Tuesday after falling ill midway through the first set of her second round match against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
The American top seed was leading 6-5 after breaking Cornet's serve with a smash only for the doctor to come on court at the change over and take the 32-year-old's temperature.
Williams, who was playing in her first match since winning her 18th grand slam singles title at the U.S. Open earlier this month, sat solemnly, head down with a towel around her neck and a thermometer in her mouth before opting against continuing.
Williams had showed flashes of her usual brilliance but did not look at full fitness throughout her hour of activity on the center court.
Her exit only added to the headache for organizers of the inaugural $2.4 million hard court event, where top names tumbled in early action after the city's tennis trailblazer Li Na announced her retirement from the game last week.
Former world number one and 10th seed Jelena Jankovic was also forced to quit her second round match on Tuesday in the first set while trailing American CoCo Vandeweghe 4-1.
That followed the departure of Romanian world number two Simona Halep, who was beaten by an aggressive display from Garbine Muguruza.
The Spanish 20-year-old smashed 34 winners as she knocked out the second seed 2-6 6-2 6-3 and set up a third-round meeting with Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, who battled back from a 5-0 first set deficit to edge Germany's Sabine Lisicki 7-6(3) 6-3.
Italian 11th seed Sara Errani was ousted by American Alison Riske 6-4 6-4, while Swiss qualifier Timea Bacsinszky defeated 13th seed and U.S. Open semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 6-4 6-1.
Danish eighth seed Caroline Wozniacki, who lost to Williams in the Flushing Meadows final in New York, narrowly avoided joining the exodus after battling back from a break down in the third set to edge Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 3-6 7-6(4).
On Monday, fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, ninth seed Ana Ivanovic, 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova, 14th seed Lucie Safarova and 15th seed Flavia Pennetta all made early-round exits to leave the tournament wide open.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)