Victoria Azarenka, the former world No. 1 women's tennis player, shocked fans on Sunday when she abruptly left the court during the middle of a match at the Miami Open.
Playing against 16-year-old Czech Linda Fruhvirtova, Azarenka informed the chair umpire that she was done and stormed off the court in the second set as the teenager led 6-2, 3-0.
The decision shocked fans and broadcasters at the tournament in Miami Gardens. Azarenka, the No. 12 seed at the event, later released a statement saying she "shouldn't have gone on the court today."
"The last few weeks have been extremely stressful in my personal life. Last match took so much out of me, but I wanted to play in front of a great audience as they helped me pull through my first match," Azarenka said.
"I wanted to go out there and try, but it was a mistake," she added.
The Belarusian professional tennis player, 32, is competing on the Tour without the name or flag of her country due to sanctions over Russia's invasion of neighboring Ukraine, Reuters reported. She previously won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013.
The abrupt exit by Azarenka led the umpire to call the match in favor of Fruhvirtova, who initially admitted to being confused. However, Fruhvirtova called it an "honor" to share the court with Azarenka.
"You never want to end the match this way, but it happens. We shook hands, and then she walked off," Fruhvirtova told AFP.
In the previous round, Azarenka defeated Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova in a final-set tiebreak.
"I hope to take a break and be able to come back," Azarenka said in the statement. "I'm sorry to the fans for what happened as you were great to cheer for me. It was the only reason I decided to step on the court."
"I always look forward to the challenge and pressure of competition, but today it was too much. I have to and will learn from this," she added. "I would like to congratulate my opponent and wish her best of luck in this tournament and beginning of her professional career."
Last May, Naomi Osaka, 24, withdrew from the French Open over her refusal to partake in the event’s obligated press appearances, citing her mental health.