The first Grand Slam of 2018 has been marked by an unusually long list of injuries and illnesses, despite it being just the start of a new season.
While many top players on men’s tour – which was hit by a spate of injury-forced withdrawals late last season – are making their return in Melbourne, their off-season hasn’t been as intense as they would have hoped for. The season-opening events saw many more withdrawals as well. In addition, many other players have been hit by niggles and sickness during the first two weeks of this season.
All this means that the Australian Open, which has already seen withdrawals by Serena Williams and Andy Murray, could well see many more walking wound on the courts. Whether this casts a shadow the overall tournament or gives us another remarkable story of triumphant injury comeback, remains to be seen.
For now, here’s the causality list of the top players and what ails them.
The six-time Melbourne champion has been sidelined since Wimbledon in July with a right elbow injury. While he admitted that his elbow still not 100%, he says he is at a level where he can play. At the Kooyong exhibition tournament last week he made a successful return to competitive tennis with a straight sets win over Dominic Thiem, wearing a sleeve to protect his elbow. A six-time champion in Melbourne, one cannot count the Serb out.
The same knee injury that marred the Spanish world No 1’s otherwise terrific 2017, forced him out of the warm-up Brisbane International. But the top seed is no stranger to playing with pain and has said that he “feels good” after intensive practice sessions in Melbourne. Even without sufficient warm-up matches, last year’s finalist will be a force to reckon with.
The 2014 champion and his team made the decision to play the Australian Open as late as Saturday. He last played a competitive match in the first round of Wimbledon and is returning from two operations on a knee cartilage injury. While he has said that the knee was holding up well, he is still feeling pain.
Calf and wrist problems have kept the tall Canadian out of action since last October. While he made his return at the Brisbane International, he was bundled out by a wildcard, raising concerns over his match fitness.
After calling time on his season in October last year, he made a strong return lifting the Brisbane title this year. However, his leg was strapped at the event which he said related to fluid on the back of his left knee. While the strapping didn’t seem to trouble Australia’s big hope, it remains to be seen ow it holds up over the course of five-set matches.
The Austrian world number five pulled out of the warm-up Qatar Open just hours before his semi-final with flu and a fever. The same issue forced him out of a scheduled match at the Kooyong Classic last week.
The American who had an upsurge late last season retired from a match at the Hopman Cup with an injured hip, but returned two days later when he lost to Roger Federer.
The 2008 Australian Open runner-up withdrew from the Qatar Open before it started with a wrist injury.
The world number three retired from Brisbane after collapsing with severe leg cramps. She also pulled out of the Sydney International last week with a thigh injury, but said it had responded well to treatment ahead of her bid to win her third Major.
The US Open champion withdrew from Brisbane to rest a troublesome knee and was knocked out of Sydney in the first round. However, she insisted the knee was now “all good” as she attempts to win her first match since her first Grand Slam triumph.
A semi-finalist in Melbourne two years ago, the Briton’s Brisbane campaign ended early when she retired with a right hip injury. She was bundled out of the Sydney International in the first round but said this week she was “so far, so good” on the injury front.
The rising French star was in tears when she was forced to retire from Brisbane with a back injury in the opening round, saying she could barely move.
The two-time Wimbledon champion pulled out of Brisbane with a viral illness and was knocked out of Sydney in round two. She missed last year’s Australian Open after a knife attack by a burglar but made a good comeback later in the year.
The German, ranked 12, withdrew from the Sydney International just hours after beating Caroline Wozniacki to win the warm-up Auckland Classic, citing a right knee injury.
The Canadian lost all three matches at the Hopman Cup and was eliminated in the first round at Hobart, but said a buttock injury suffered in Perth was now fine.
With inputs from AFP