An unusually long list of injuries and illnesses could take its toll on the Australian Open with many players not 100 percent fit to play in the year's first Grand Slam. Former champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka return after missing out on over six months of tennis action while the likes of Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, Caroline Garcia and Dominic Thiem fell prey to injuries and illnesses in warm-up tournaments.
Take look at some of the stars who have been struggling in the run up to the Australian Open.
Six-time Melbourne champion Djokovic has been sidelined with a right elbow injury since Wimbledon in July. The Serb played his first match in six months when he faced Dominic Thiem in an exhibition match at the Kooyong Classic and he showed no signs of being bothered by his injury as he duly thrashed the World No 5 Thiem 6-1, 6-4. He also played in the exhibition Tie-break Tens event along with Rafael Nadal, Thiem and Nick Kyrgios.
Nadal hasn't played competitive tennis since withdrawing from the season-ending ATP World Tour finals due to a knee injury. The Spanish World No 1 was scheduled to take part in the Brisbane International but pulled out after failing to recover from his knee injury. Nadal played an exhibition match at the Kooyong Classic where he lost to Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-5 before playing at the Tie-break Tens event.
Wawrinka's 2017 season came to an end after a shock defeat to Russian Daniil Medvedev in the first round of Wimbledon and announced that he will be missing the rest of the season after undergoing two operations on a knee cartilage injury. The 2014 champion pulled out of Mubadala World Tennis Championship in December after failing to recover from his injury. The 32-year-old Swiss' Australian Open preparations faced a setback when he withdrew from the Tie-break Tens event and will go into the tournament with zero match practice.
Raonic suffered two injuries in 2017 which largely curtailed his season. After being forced out of action for seven weeks following a surgery on his wrist, Raonic lasted just one game before picking up another injury when he was forced to retire in the second round of the Japan Open due to a calf strain. The Canadian made his comeback in the Brisbane International but was bundled out by Australian teen Alex De Minaur in the Round of 16.
The mercurial Australian ended his season in October after revealing the reoccurrence of a hip injury he suffered at the Queen's Club championships. Kyrgios made his comeback at the Brisbane International but had to get treatment on his left knee in the second round match against Matthew Ebden. The 22-year-old said that he was struggling a bit due to the presence of fluid on the back of his knee. It didn't seem to trouble Australia's big hope, who went on to win the tournament.
The 25-year-old American suffered a hip injury during his match against Yuichi Sugita in the Hopman Cup but recovered to return two days later and play against Roger Federer. Sock suffered a shock exit at the Auckland Classic when he was beaten by Peter Gojowczyk in straight sets in the second round.
The Austrian World No 5 pulled out of the warm-up Qatar Open just hours before his semi-final against Gael Monfils with flu. Thiem managed to recover to face Djokovic at the Kooyong Classic but was beaten by the Serb. The 24-year-old was forced to retire from Kooyong on Thursday after falling ill again due to a virus.
The 2008 Australian Open runner-up withdrew from the Qatar Open before it started with a wrist injury a month after leading his country France to victory in the Davis Cup. The Frenchman is expected to recover from the injury and is seeded 15th in the tournament.
The Wimbledon champion struggled under the Australian sun and retired at the Brisbane International after collapsing with severe leg cramps. The World No 3 advanced to the quarter-finals of the Sydney International before suffering a thigh injury which forced her to retire from the event on Wednesday. Muguruza faces a race against time to be fit for her first round match against Jessika Ponchet.
Stephens withdrew from the Brisbane International due to a troublesome knee. The US Open champion said that she needed an extra week's rehab. Stephens' return from injury was short as she was knocked out of the Sydney International in the first round by Camila Giorgi.
Konta retired in the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International against Elina Svitolina due to a hip injury. The Briton recovered from the injury to defend her Sydney International title but was bundled out in the first round by last year's finalist Agnieszka Radwanska.
The rising French star had a stellar 2017 as she clinched back-to-back titles at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open and the China Open and qualified for the WTA Finals in Singapore where she reached the semi-finals. The World No 8 retired in tears from the Brisbane International with a back injury in her first round match against Alize Cornet.
Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, pulled out of the Brisbane International with a viral illness.
Goerges began 2018 with a bang after clinching the Auckland Classic title after beating Caroline Wozniacki in the final. The 12th ranked German, however, withdrew from the Sydney International due to an injury to her right knee.
Players missing in action
Like rivals Djokovic and Wawrinka, Murray last played in Wimbledon where he was beaten by Sam Querrey in an epic five-setter. The Briton was forced to withdraw two days before the start of the US Open after failing to recover from the hip injury which bothered him during his loss to Querrey. Murray had planned to be fit in time for the Australian Open but withdrew from the Brisbane International and on Monday underwent a surgery on his hip ruling him out of the Australian Open.
The Japanese star has been out of action since withdrawing from the Cincinnati Masters after tearing a tendon in his right wrist. The World No 24 pulled out of the Sydney International before also withdrawing from the Australian Open after not having fully recovered from his injury.
The former World No 1 took a break from tennis after winning her 23rd Grand Slam at Melbourne last year due to her pregnancy. The defending champion returned to tennis after giving birth to daughter Olympia, at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship where she was beaten by French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. However, Serena announced her decision to withdraw from the Australian Open last week stating that she didn't feel ready to compete at the highest level.
Former World No 1 Azarenka hasn't played since Wimbledon last year. However, unlike her rivals, the two-time Australian Open champion has been forced to withdraw due to a custody battle over her one-year-old son. The Belarusian has been forced to remain in California after the presiding judge over her case ruled that her son couldn't leave California until the case has been resolved which has forced Azarenka to skip tournaments despite being fit to play.
With inputs from AFP
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Updated Date: Jan 11, 2018 21:52:19 IST