Wimbledon suffers big blow as one of the favourites withdraws due to ‘rare injury’

Shahida Jacobs
A dejected Aryna Sabalenka
A dejected Aryna Sabalenka

The Wimbledon women’s draw has suffered a major setback as world No 3 Aryna Sabalenka has withdrawn from the tournament because of a “rare” shoulder injury.

The reigning Australian Open champion was many people’s pick to win this year’s title, but she won’t feature in the main draw as she has failed to recover from a shoulder injury.

“Heartbroken to have to tell you all that I won’t be able to play The Championships this year. I tried everything to get myself ready but unfortunately my shoulder is not cooperating,” she wrote on social media.

“I pushed myself to the limit in practice today to try my best, but my team explained that playing would only make things worse.

“This tournament means so much to me and I promise I’ll be back stronger than ever next year.”

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The two-time Grand Slam winner admitted during the build-up to the grass-court major that there were major doubts over her Wimbledon participation.

“No, I’m not 100% fit now. We’re doing everything we can with my team to make sure I’ll be able to play my first match here. But, no, I’m not 100% ready,” she said.

Sabalenka was asked for more detail about the injury and explained: “It’s teres major. Like [the] shoulder. For someone who doesn’t speak very well English, I call it just a shoulder injury. It’s really a specific injury, and it’s really a rare one. Probably I’m just the second or the third tennis player who injured that muscle.

“That’s a very frustrating one. The most annoying thing is that I can do anything. I can practice, I can hit my groundstrokes. I’m struggling with serving. That’s really annoying.

“You don’t feel like you’re injured. If you give me some weights, I’m going to go lift some weights. But if you tell me to serve, I’m going to go through pain. We did an MRI, we did everything. We did a lot of rehab, a lot of treatments and everything.”

The Belarusian will be replaced in the main draw by lucky loser Erika Andreeva, who faces Emina Bektas in the first round on Monday.

The two-time Grand Slam winner’s withdrawal was a big boost for those in the bottom half of the draw as she was expected to make the semi-final.

World No 2 Coco Gauff is the highest seed in the bottom half and she is projected to meet seventh seed Jasmine Paolini in the quarter-final with Australian runner-up and eighth seed Zheng Qinwen now a likely semi-final opponent, if the seedings hold.

Sabalenka was the second seeded player to withdraw as 22nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova pulled out earlier on Monday morning due to illness. Alexandrova – who was due to face Emma Raducanu – was replaced by Renata Zarazua.