Love Verb

Stuff that matters

Simona Halep, the defending Wimbledon women’s champion, has withdrawn from the championships just before the draw because of a calf injury. The world No 3 joins Naomi Osaka, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem in missing the tournament.

The 29-year-old Romanian, who defeated Serena Williams in the final two years ago, tore her left calf muscle in May and was also forced to miss the French Open.

“It is with great sadness that I’m announcing my withdrawal from the championships as my calf injury has not fully recovered,” Halep told the tournament’s official website.

“I gave it everything I had in order to be ready to play Wimbledon and, after having such special memories from two years ago, I was excited and honoured to step back on these beautiful courts as defending champion.

“I can honestly say that I’m really down and upset about having to take this decision. This period has been difficult, but to miss the last two majors has made it even more challenging mentally and physically. We will see what the future holds, but I’m hoping it will make me a stronger person and athlete.”

There was much better news for Katie Swan, who became the first British female to reach the main draw from qualifying in 20 years, having played her first matches since suffering a thigh problem in May, at Roehampton this week. Her reward is a first round match against the No23 seed, Madison Keys.

The 22-year-old, ranked 290, swept through the first set against Australia’s Arina Rodionova and held her nerve in a much tighter second to win 6-0 6-4 and emulate Karen Cross, who achieved the feat for the second time in 2001.

Swan, who has played at Wimbledon three times as a wild card, reacted with delight after the final point was won, and said: “I can’t believe it right now. I’m so happy to be in the main draw. It’s probably my biggest accomplishment in tennis.”

In the men’s singles draw, Andy Murray will make his Wimbledon return with a tricky-looking match against the 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, while the British teenage wild card Jack Draper has drawn the defending champion Novak Djokovic.

Murray is playing singles at the All England Club for the first time since his hip problems became acute in 2017 and has ongoing concerns over a groin issue. He has played only four tour-level matches this year and will have his work cut out against the Georgian Basilashvili, who has won two titles in 2021 and reached the semi-finals of the grass-court event in Halle last week.

Draper, 19, showed he loves the big stage by winning his first two ATP Tour matches at Queen’s Club last week and he will find himself on the biggest stage of all against Djokovic on Centre Court. Draper, who reached the junior Wimbledon final three years ago, should relish the opportunity to take on the man seeking a third consecutive grand slam title.

The eight-time champion Roger Federer has been drawn in the bottom half, meaning he cannot face Djokovic until the final, but the 39-year-old is short of matches and faces a tricky opener against the French grass-court specialist Adrian Mannarino.

Britain has three seeded players in Dan Evans, Cameron Norrie and Johanna Konta. Evans, seeded 22nd, faces another man who knows his way around a grass court in the Spanish veteran Feliciano López, while Norrie, seeded at a grand slam tournament for the first time following his brilliant start to 2021, meets France’s Lucas Pouille.

Konta, the 27th seed, takes on the Czech Katerina Siniakova in round one and could meet the top seed Ashleigh Barty, who has been battling a hip injury, in round three. The Australian will open against Spain’s Carla Suárez Navarro, who is playing her final Wimbledon before retirement after recovering from cancer.

In Halep’s absence the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka has been elevated to second seed in the women’s draw, and she could take on Britain’s Katie Boulter in round two. Serena Williams begins her latest quest for a 24th grand slam singles title against Sabalenka’s compatriot, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and could face a rematch with Angelique Kerber, against whom she lost in the 2018 final, in round three.

Another standout British draw pitted the debutant Francesca Jones against Coco Gauff, who returns to the All-England Club for the first time since she burst to prominence as a 15-year-old two years ago, while Harriet Dart will play the Belgian 13th seed Elise Mertens.

Liam Broady takes on Marco Cecchinato, Jay Clarke plays Egor Gerasimov, Samantha Murray Sharan meets Sorana Cirstea and the debutant Jodie Burrage faces Lauren Davis, while Heather Watson, Boulter and the 18-year-old Emma Raducanu will all play qualifiers.