Coco Gauff shuts down claim that Aryna Sabalenka Wimbledon withdrawal benefits her

Gauff and Sabalenka were projected to meet in the Wimbledon semifinal before the Belarusian withdrew due to a shoulder injury.

by Dzevad Mesic
Coco Gauff shuts down claim that Aryna Sabalenka Wimbledon withdrawal benefits her
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Coco Gauff doesn't really agree that Aryna Sabalenka's withdrawal is making things way easier for her at Wimbledon simply because the American strongly believes there is very strong competition out there. 

When the Wimbledon main draw was released on Friday, both Gauff and Sabalenka landed in the bottom half. And since Gauff was the No. 2 seed and Sabalenka the third-seeded player, they were one of the two projected Wimbledon semifinals. 

But the chances of seeing a Gauff and Sabalenka semifinal at Wimbledon abruptly came to an end on Monday after the Belarusian tennis star announced that she was pulling out of her first-round match versus Emina Bektas due to a shoulder injury. 

"Heartbroken to have to tell you all that I won't be able to play The Championships this year. I tried everything to get myself ready but unfortunately my shoulder is not cooperating. I pushed myself to the limit in practice today to try my best, but my team explained that playing would only make things much worse. This tournament means so much to me and I promise I'll be back stronger than ever next year," Sabalenka wrote in a message posted on her Instagram Story on Monday.

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Aryna Sabalenka - Shaun Botterill

How Gauff feels about Sabalenka's withdrawal

On the same day Sabalenka withdrew from Wimbledon, Gauff made a very strong start after crushing Caroline Dolehide 6-1 6-2. Against Dolehide, the 2023 US Open champion was looking absolutely dominant and some instantly started suggesting that the 20-year-old American reaching the Wimbledon final was probably a safe thing.

But when asked about the Sabalenka news in her presser, Gauff said it was unfortunate to see the two-time Grand Slam champion have to pull out of Wimbledon and shut down claims that the withdrawal was benefiting her. 

"I mean, I probably wouldn't have played her until the semis. So, at that point, it's just like, this is semi-finals of the Grand Slam, no matter who you play, it's going to be a tough person to play. But it is unfortunate that she had to pull out," Gauff said.

"She's always a contender in every slam and every surface. She's such a competitor, and I think she's a nice person, and I hate to see her not be able to play, especially it being such a last-minute type thing.

"I think she was healthy up until Berlin, at least that's my understanding. So hopefully she's able to get back ready. I don't think she's playing Olympics, so she'll have some time, I think, to be ready for the hard court swing."

Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

After overcoming Dolehide in her Wimbledon opener, Gauff also defeated Anca Todoni in the second round to set up a third-round meeting versus Sonay Kartal. En route to the Wimbledon final, the second-seeded American could potentially meet recent French Open finalist Jasmine Paolini - their match could possibly come in the quarterfinal.

If Gauff reaches the final, she could easily meet either Iga Swiatek or Elena Rybakina there. 

Gauff is in a completely different situation compared to last year at Wimbledon

Last year, Gauff wasn't with her game where she wanted to be - and all the pressure and everything that she was feeling at the time - resulted in her not playing well against Sofia Kenin and exiting last year's Wimbledon in the first round. During that match, the American often had a frustrated and dejected look on her face and she looked absolutely crushed after losing the match.

But returning to this year's Wimbledon as a Grand Slam champion and the No. 2 seed, Gauff says she has a different mentality and what happened a year ago is a thing of the past. 

“I think I’ve just grown a lot. I’m glad I used that moment to just strive to get better. I still know I’m nowhere near where I can be. I think that experience taught me that a bad moment doesn't last forever," Gauff explained.

“That part of the season was tough, then the next part of the season was the best I’ve ever had. That just shows bad moments don’t last forever. I’m really relaxed going into this year. I did not have a great Wimbledon last year. It’s like it couldn’t get any worse, it can only get better.”

Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

At Wimbledon, Gauff is looking to make her fourth consecutive really deep Slam run - after winning the 2023 US Open, the 20-year-old was also a semifinalist at this year's Australian Open and French Open.

It remains to be seen if Gauff can win her first Wimbledon and her second Slam title in the next two weeks.

Coco Gauff Aryna Sabalenka Wimbledon