(recasts with quotes, details)
By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) - It was all pain and no gain for Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday as the Belarussian’s Wimbledon odyssey ended with a bruised and battered knee before her second round match on Centre Court.
The Australian Open champion was scheduled to face Italian doubles specialist Flavia Panetta but the fans were still filing in when the PA announcer said: “Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Victoria Azarenka has had to withdraw due to an injury.”
The collective groan that buzzed around the court was nothing compared to the anguish going through Azarenka’s mind after she suffered the injury in a first-round match on Monday.
“I couldn’t be any more disappointed. I love playing here,” said the crestfallen 23-year-old, who reached the semi-finals in 2011 and 2012.
“To not be able to kind of play just because of... such bad luck is very, very frustrating. I couldn’t be more disappointed.”
Azarenka, who had romped to a 6-1 1-0 lead against Portugal’s Maria Joao Koehler on Monday when she had a nasty fall, bemoaned her luck and blamed the abrupt end to her Wimbledon campaign on a “slippery court”.
After launching into her serve, she slipped into a splits behind the baseline before collapsing and rolling to her left side in agony.
Azarenka immediately clutched her right knee and her body shook as she screamed out in pain.
She lay on the ground for several minutes before eventually being helped back to her feet and took a lengthy medical time out to get her knee heavily strapped up.
Although Azarenka managed to limp through the rest of the match, walking gingerly between points, to win 6-1 6-2, the adrenaline that carried her through the pain barrier two days ago could not be called upon for another miracle.
“It was pretty obvious it was a very bad fall. To recover in two days after that seems impossible... 48 hours just made it worse,” said Azarenka. “It’s kind of a bone bruise.”
The one consolation for the Belarussian was that an MRI scan showed she had not suffered any torn ligaments, although that still failed to lift her mood.
“Right now I don’t see anything positive as of today because I‘m disappointed extremely,” she said.
“I‘m pretty lucky that what happened to me is not critical. Could be, because after the fall the doctors saw and they are surprised that I‘m even able to get up.”
Azarenka joined a crowded casualty room at Wimbledon after Rafa Nadal’s conqueror Belgian Steve Darcis, marathon man John Isner, Queen’s Club runner-up Marin Cilic and Czech Radek Stepanek fell to injuries on Day Three of the grasscourt major.
Asked if the ordeal had made her afraid of grass, Azarenka replied: “My biggest fear is heights, not grasscourts or anything else. And spiders.” (Writing by Pritha Sarkar; editing by Ken Ferris)