Victoria Azarenka, mid-tournament, has pulled out of this week’s Premier Mandatory event in Madrid. Vika’s back is injured, however, based on her comments it does not seem to be a major injury. The World No. 5 indicated that she plans to be ready for Rome, a tournament that will run next week, suggesting that her injury will only be short term.
“I’m just trying to make the test, make sure there is nothing serious, and try to treat it as best as possible,” Azarenka explained. “My plan is to be ready for Rome, so hopefully I’ll be able to do that.”
The absence of Azarenka leaves the Madrid draw further plundered of the top stars on the WTA Tour. World No. 1 Serena Williams pulled out of the event before it started, World No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska suffered a first-round loss, World No. 3 Angelique Kerber lost in the first round as well, World No. 4 Garbine Muguruza lost in the second round, and World No. 6 Petra Kvitova went out in the second round as well. That leaves the quarterfinals absent of any player for the Top 6 on the women’s tour.
Speculating on the final match-up in Madrid now seems like a foolhardy thing to do, but Simona Halep and Sam Stosur, two former French Open finalists, are still alive in the bottom half of the draw. Up top, there’s Dominika Cibulkova and Sorana Cirstea, two players that will meet in the tournament’s quarterfinal round. You have to think that the winner of that match will be the favorite to move into the Madrid final, with Cibulkova the most proven player in the top half remaining.
With Azarenka, the injury comes at a time when she was making a major push toward the World No. 1 ranking. Following titles in Indian Wells and Miami, she appeared to be a very interesting player to keep an eye on during the clay-court season. However, she does not have many matches on the surface this season and the ones she has have not been against tough players. Entering Rome on the heels of an injury she has to be viewed as a question mark. Furthermore, if she enters the French Open with few clay-court matches, it will be hard to know what to expect from her on clay’s biggest stage.
There are a couple of minor events ahead of the French Open in both Nuremberg and Strasburg. The events take place after Rome and immediately before the French Open. If Vika is healthy and without many clay-court matches played in Rome, she might be smart to try and get a couple in at one of those events before tanking it to rest up for Roland Garros. However, my guess is that she will not enter those events. Accordingly, with the disappointing news from Madrid, the hottest player so far in 2016 isn’t looking all that great as the biggest time of year on the tour approaches.