Five-time champion Venus Williams withdrew from Wimbledon on Tuesday because of a back injury, ending her streak of 16 consecutive appearances at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.
Williams made the announcement on her Facebook page, saying she hopes to return in July at a World Team Tennis match in Washington, D.C.
“Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in Wimbledon this year,” Williams wrote. “I am extremely disappointed as I have always loved The Championships, but I need to take time to let my back heal. … Many thanks to my fans for the love and support and I will be seeing you very soon back on the courts.”
Williams, who turned 33 on Monday, has been struggling with a lower-back injury for most of the 2013 season. The injury has greatly affected her serve, which is one of the best in the game when she’s healthy. Williams withdrew from a third-round match against Sloane Stephens at the Sony Open in March and aggravated her back less than two weeks later at the Family Circle Cup, where she reached the semifinals and lost to her sister Serena 6-1, 6-2. She hasn’t won a tour-level match since, withdrawing from Madrid and losing to Laura Robson in the first round of the Italian Open and to Urszula Radwanska in the first round of the French Open.
Last year, Venus and Serena won the Wimbledon doubles title for the fifth time. Serena will defend her singles title when the tournament begins Monday.
Venus was diagnosed two years ago with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can make it difficult for her to prepare and train as much as she’d like. Even so, Venus has still made two semifinals this year and kept her ranking in the top 40. The former world No. 1 is ranked No. 34.