2019 champion Simona Halep out of Wimbledon with calf injury

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Winner Simona Halep, of Romania, left, and second placed Serena Williams pose with their trophies after the women’s singles final match on day twelve of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, in this Saturday, July 13, 2019, file photo. There are plenty of intriguing story lines to follow on the grass courts. That includes Novak Djokovic’s bid to equal Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at 20 major titles and Serena Williams seeking her 24th. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland, File)

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Simona Halep did not get the chance to defend her 2019 Wimbledon title a year ago because the tournament was canceled due to the pandemic. Now an injury will prevent her from competing when play begins at the All England Club next week.

Halep announced shortly before Friday’s draw that she was pulling out of the grass-court Grand Slam due to the same torn left calf that kept her from participating at the French Open.

“I gave it everything I had in order to be ready to play Wimbledon and after having such special memories from 2 years ago, I was excited and honored to step back on these beautiful courts as defending champion,” Halep wrote in a posting on social media. “Unfortunately, my body didn’t cooperate and I’ll have to save that feeling for next year.”

The 29-year-old from Romania is a two-time major champion and former No. 1-ranked player who is currently No. 3.

Her withdrawal means two of the top three women in the WTA rankings will be missing from one of the sport’s most prestigious events when main-draw action begins Monday: No. 2 Naomi Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam title winner, is sitting out Wimbledon while “taking some personal time with friends and family,” her agent, Stuart Duguid, said in an email last week.

Two of the top five men in the ATP rankings are also out: No. 3 Rafael Nadal, who said he needed to let his body rest and recover, and No. 5 Dominic Thiem, who hurt his right wrist.

The last time Wimbledon was held, two years ago, Halep beat 23-time major champion Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 in the final, then stated: “I’m very sure that was the best match of my life.”

Halep hasn’t played on tour since tearing her calf during a match at the Italian Open in May. She wrote Friday the muscle “has not fully recovered.”

“I can honestly say that I’m really down and upset about having to take this decision. This period has been difficult but to miss the last two Majors has made it even more challenging mentally and physically,” Halep said. “We will see what the future holds but I’m hoping it will make me a stronger person and athlete.”

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