Wimbledon 2024: Top seeded Aryna Sabalenka withdraws from Wimbledon with a shoulder injury

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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Wimbledon favorite Aryna Sabalenka withdrew on Monday because of an injured shoulder.

The two-time Australian Open champion was seeded third at the All England Club and was supposed to play Emina Bektas of the United States in the first round on Day 1 at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

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

Sabalenka was favored to win the women’s championship at Wimbledon, according to BetMGM Sportsbook.

A semifinalist at the All England Club each of the last two times she appeared there, Sabalenka was replaced in the draw on Monday by Erika Andreeva, who lost in qualifying last week.

A little more than a week ago, Sabalenka stopped playing during the first set of her quarterfinal at the Berlin Ladies Open, citing pain in her shoulder.

She said she had a muscle injury that she called “very frustrating.”

“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,” Sabalenka said. “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.”

Sabalenka said on Saturday there was a chance she would need to pull out of Wimbledon, “But I still have my hopes. As someone who been fighting through a lot of different pains in the past months, I still have my hopes.”

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The 26-year-old from Belarus briefly reached No. 1 in the WTA rankings for the first time last season and is currently No. 3, behind Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff.

Sabalenka’s game is built on power that she can generate, particularly on her serve and big forehand. It is a style of tennis that works particularly well on speedier surfaces such as the Australian Open’s hard courts — where she won the championships in 2023 and this January — and Wimbledon’s grass.

She made it to the final four at the All England Club a year ago and in 2021. Sabalenka was not allowed to enter Wimbledon in 2022, when all players from Russia and Belarus were banned from the event because of the invasion of Ukraine.

Her departure from the bracket on Monday without playing a point made Sabalenka one of several players who pulled out of the tournament just as it was beginning.

Ekaterina Alexandrova, who was the No. 22 seed, withdrew because of an unspecified illness, hours before she was due to face 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu at Centre Court.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis