Injuries threaten to decimate Australian Open men’s draw with Djokovic, Murray in limbo as Nishikori pulls out
Murray and Djokovic yet to fully recover from injuries after six months off while Nishikori drops out with wrist problem
Novak Djokovic is still not sure whether he will be able to play in the Australian Open, where he has won six of his 12 major championships.
Djokovic has been dealing with pain in his right elbow. A statement posted on his website said he will travel to Australia to participate in two exhibition events next week.
After that, the statement said, “the decision will be made about his participation at the first grand slam of the season”.
Djokovic, who is right-handed, cited the elbow problem on December 30, when he withdrew from this week’s Qatar Open, a hard-court warm-up tournament for the Australian Open.
That was supposed to be the 30-year-old Serb’s final competitive preparation before play begins in Melbourne on January 15. He previously pulled out of a United Arab Emirates exhibition tournament.
Three-time major champion Andy Murray, meanwhile, also pulled out of Brisbane and is considering having an operation because of a bad hip. He last competed at Wimbledon, nearly six months ago.
Like Murray, Djokovic has not played in any tournament since retiring from his match in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July because of the elbow injury.
At the time, he acknowledged his right arm had been bothering him for more than a year but that he had decided against having surgery.
The extended absence dropped the former No 1 player to No 12 in the ATP rankings.
Djokovic is hardly alone when it comes to high-profile men’s tennis players dealing with injuries as the new season begins.
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal, the runner-up to Roger Federer at the Australian Open last year, withdrew from this week’s Brisbane International because of a bothersome right knee. Nadal won the French Open and US Open in 2017 to raise his major count to 16.
Meanwhile, one top men’s star definitely out of Melbourne is Kei Nishikori, whose right wrist has not fully recovered from a torn tendon.
Nishikori’s agent, Olivier van Lindonk, announced the 2014 US Open runner-up’s withdrawal in an email.
Nishikori has been sidelined since August because of his wrist. That kept him out of the US Open, snapping a streak of appearing in 21 consecutive major tournaments.
Now he will miss his second major in a row.
“The Aussie Open is my favourite slam,” Nishikori said, via his agent.
Nishikori added: “My rehab is going well but I am just not ready 100 per cent to come back yet in best of 5 set matches.”