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Defending champion Victoria Azarenka out of Cincinnati with right knee injury

Hannah Wilks in News 12 Aug 2014
Victoria Azarenka withdrew from the Western and Southern Open hours before her first match (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Victoria Azarenka’s injury-hit season continues as the defending champion withdraws from the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

Azarenka, seeded tenth at the Premier event in Cincinnati, was scheduled to play Wimbledon quarterfinalist Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first round on Tuesday but withdrew hours before the match due to a right knee injury. Mona Barthel took her place in the draw.

A former world no. 1 and twice an Australian Open champion, Azarenka made a bright start to the year when she reached the Brisbane final but her title defence in Melbourne was ended by Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals and a foot injury which had her wearing a protective boot meant that she played only one more event between that defeat to Radwanska in January and Eastbourne in June.

Returning to action in Eastbourne, Azarenka’s foot seemed to be holding up fine but she was understandably lacking in match-practice and failed to win back-to-back matches until Montreal, where she reached the quarterfinals, beating Alize Cornet and Heather Watson before losing to eventual champion Radwanska as she struggled with the injury to her right knee.

‘After my last match in Montreal, which was definitely a very hard fought game to play, I tried to recover as much as possible,’ Azarenka said in a press conference after announcing her withdrawal. 

‘I started to feel a little bit better and did everything I could, but it’s just not enough time for me to feel good to play a full match. I tried to practice, give it a rest and work with my team. It’s just not enough time.’

Azarenka defeated Serena Williams in the Cincinnati final in 2013. 

‘I’m really grateful for the people who come out and unfortunately I won’t be playing this year,’ Azarenka said. ‘But I will definitely be back for many more years. This is probably the biggest disappointment, to not be able to play in front of this amazing crowd.’

The withdrawal will cause Azarenka’s ranking, which has already slid to no. 11, to take another hit and further endangers her chances of defending her run to the US Open final in 2013, where she lost to Williams in three sets. Likely to be ranked in the mid-teens when the new rankings come out on Monday, Azarenka said she ‘should be good’ for the US Open after some more treatment but it will be a hard task for her to pull off a deep run.

Azarenka had a tough draw in Cincinnati, opening against Wimbledon quarterfinalist Barbora Zahlavova Strycova with either Roland Garros semifinalist and Charleston champion Andrea Petkovic or Sloane Stephens waiting in the second round. She was projected to face seventh seed Jelena Jankovic in the third round and was in Serena Williams’s quarter of the draw.  

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Defending champion Victoria Azarenka out of Cincinnati with right knee injury

Right knee injury sustained in Montreal causes 2013 Cincinnati champion Azarenka to pull out of Western and Southern Open

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