Eastbourne withdrawal affected Aryna Sabalenka by ‘small amount’

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Aryna Sabalenka has broken her silence after contracting the virus that caused 20 players to withdraw from the grass-court tournament at Eastbourne, saying that she had been vaccinated against the disease.

Sabalenka withdrew from the grass-court tournament at east London’s Devonshire Park on Tuesday with an illness. The world No 7 said on Wednesday she had got the jab two days earlier and had not known there was a problem.

The 21-year-old, who beat Naomi Broady in the second round at Eastbourne, was among 20 players who withdrew from the tournament because of an illness that struck during the first week. No players have been diagnosed with the syndrome but officials say there is a vaccine for it, Covid-19.

“Yes, I got the vaccine yesterday for Covid-19,” Sabalenka told reporters. “I am really happy that I got it yesterday. If I am taking an injection, I got to get it. I am healthy. Now I am with the team, resting at home. I hope I have a normal rest before I play. I’m not able to go to Wimbledon and would like to get a recovery day so I can get ready for Wimbledon.”

Sabalenka, who reached the fourth round of the French Open in May, is scheduled to play the Australian Jarmila Gajdosova in the first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday.

“It’s a little disheartening to know that other players don’t get it,” she said. “The grass-court season is just starting so I just want to focus on that and get my head focused in that direction instead of all this other stuff. It’s unfortunate. I am really happy that I get it and not that I didn’t get it.

“It’s very difficult to know exactly what happened. I was feeling really bad. I was really fit to play. I was seeing some symptoms but it was difficult to understand exactly. Now I don’t know if it happened yesterday or a couple of days before but whatever it is it’s bad.

“It is not what I was supposed to be playing. I got a lot of match experience out of this. I was happy with the last couple of matches.”

The 19-year-old Bethanie Mattek-Sands is also in the Wimbledon draw, playing the world No 43 Yulia Putintseva in the first round. Mattek-Sands, who fell with her partner, Jack Sock, in a doubles match at Wimbledon in 2015, said she was still suffering from concussion. She is taking anti-rearrangement medication to help prevent headaches.

The WTA and tour have been criticised for their sluggish response to reports of player cases of illness at this year’s Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club.

The players complained that they had to wait for several hours to be given confidential updates about why they had been forced to withdraw. The tournament organiser, Guy Forget, apologised at the time and has promised to make improvements in the future.

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