Women's tennis will be without one of its biggest stars in Victoria Azarenka at the 2014 French Open. Azarenka, 24, is still nursing a foot injury that has kept her out of action since March, and it will prevent her from competing in this season's second Grand Slam event at Roland Garros.
The WTA's official Twitter account reported the news:
Azarenka addressed her unfortunate health situation on social media as well:
Hi Guys - Unfortunately I will not be able to compete in Roland Garros this year. Working hard on my recovery & getting back on the court.— victoria azarenka (@vika7) May 19, 2014
I just want to thank you all for your support. It means a lot to me. Be in touch soon! Love -V— victoria azarenka (@vika7) May 19, 2014
USTA.com's Erin Bruehl provided her analysis:
#Azarenka out of French Open. Not surprised given she hasn't played on clay this season but still a bummer for women's tennis.— Erin Bruehl (@ErinBruehl) May 19, 2014
The last time Azarenka was on the court was for a second-round loss at Indian Wells to Lauren Davis, where it was evident that the Belarus native was not on top of her game.
Before that, the only other two tournaments Azarenka competed in this season were the Brisbane International and the Australian Open. She lost the final in the former event to Serena Williams and failed to win the Australian Open for a third straight time, falling to rival Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals.
As competitive and relentless as Azarenka is on the court, it is a testament to how serious her injury situation is that she is taking the time away to recover while missing so many big events.
The French Open is not her strongest suit, as Azarenka's heavy-hitting groundstrokes and style of play translate best to the hard courts rather than clay-court play. However, she showed clear improvement in 2013 by advancing to her first semifinal at Roland Garros, so it has to be disappointing that she won't be able to build on that.
At this point, though, Azarenka just has to be itching to get back to competing as it is. If she had pushed to get back for a Grand Slam tournament at the French Open, there could have been a setback. This was a tough decision to make, but it should be one that benefits Azarenka in the long term.
The U.S. Open doesn't start until late August, so that should be when Azarenka gears her rehab toward as far as a target return date. While it's possible she returns well before then, Azarenka has to make sure she's 100 percent. The major finale offers Azarenka the best chance to win another Grand Slam title based on her skills.