Defending champion Simona Halep withdraws from Wimbledon due to calf injury

Romanian world No 3 has been struggling to recover from the injury she sustained at the Rome Open in May

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Simona Halep will not defend her Wimbledon title after withdrawing from the tournament on Friday due to a calf injury sustained last month, becoming the latest high-profile player to miss the grass court Grand Slam.

Halep ended her European claycourt swing early after suffering the calf injury during her Rome Open second round match against Angelique Kerber in May. The Romanian subsequently withdrew from the French Open and the Bad Homburg Open, which would have acted as her tune-up event for Wimbledon.

"It is with great sadness that I'm announcing my withdrawal from The Championships as my calf injury has not fully recovered," Halep, who won the title when Wimbledon was last held in 2019, said on Instagram.

"I gave it everything I had in order to be ready to play Wimbledon and after having such special memories from two years ago, I was excited and honoured to step back on these beautiful courts as defending champion.

"Unfortunately, my body didn't cooperate and I'll have to save that feeling for next year."

Halep won Wimbledon - her second Grand Slam title - with a superb performance to defeat Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2. She was denied a chance to defend her title when Wimbledon was cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She joins world No 2 Naomi Osaka in withdrawing from the grass court Grand Slam with the Japanese also skipping Wimbledon following her withdrawal from Roland Garros due to mental health issues.

In their absence, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka will climb up to be the No 2 seed behind top-ranked Australian Ashleigh Barty with the singles draw for both men and women to be held later on Friday.

"I can honestly say that I'm really down and upset about having to take this decision," Halep, 29, said. "This period has been difficult but to miss the last two majors has made it even more challenging mentally and physically.

"We will see what the future holds but I'm hoping it will make me a stronger person and athlete."

The men's draw has also seen high-profile withdrawals due to injury and fatigue. World No 3 and two-time champion Rafael Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon and ruled himself out of the Tokyo Olympic Games, while US Open champion Dominic Thiem was forced to withdraw after sustaining a wrist injury at the Mallorca Championships earlier this week.