World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka suffered a blow to her French Open preparations when she was forced to pull out of the Italian Open with a right shoulder injury late Wednesday night shortly after thrashing Israel’s Shahar Pe’er to reach the third round.

Azarenka had shown no sign of discomfort when she walloped Pe’er 6-1, 6-2, but the WTA announced her withdrawal shortly after the victory to the surprise of everyone in the Foro Italico.

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With just nine days until the start of the French Open, the Belarusian will hope for a quick recovery ahead of her bid for a second straight Grand Slam title.


Azarenka’s withdrawal handed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia a free ticket to the last eight, surely frustrating Pe’er, who must have been thinking to herself why couldn’t the No. 1 seed withdraw slightly earlier and gift the Israeli a third-round berth instead.

Pe’er has now failed to progress past the second round in eight consecutive tournaments.