2018 has promised to be one of the best years for tennis in recent memory due to the number of stars returning to action after time away from the game. Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, Williams, Azarenka, Raonic, are the main names that come to mind. This reunion may be hampered now by recent news of continued injury struggles of some of the top players in the world.
Injury Woes to Start 2018
Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the ATP 250 event in Doha, blaming right elbow pain as his reason. This is a major cause for concern because this is seemingly the same injury that forced him to end his 2017 season after Wimbledon. That was 6 months ago, and if this injury hasn’t healed in that amount of time, it is not unreasonable to speculate if the Djoker’s arm will ever fully recover.
For over a year now, we have not seen Djokovic play dominant tennis, so it is hard to be sure of what type of effect this will have on the other players at the Australian Open. Undeniably, the sport is more entertaining when Djokovic is playing so hopefully his team is just being cautious and he will be good to go for the first major of the year.
The King of Clay
Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Brisbane 250 tournament. It doesn’t seem to be due to injury, but instead, a lack of preparation:
I am sorry to announce I won’t be coming to Brisbane this year. My intention was to play but I am still not ready after last year’s long season and the late start of my preparation.
I had a great time there and it was a great start to the month I spent in Australia
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) December 27, 2017
At this stage in his career, Nadal cares more about being fully prepared for Grand Slams over playing a 250 event leading up to the Australian Open. He looks to be taking a page out of Federer’s book as he tries to preserve his body by lightening his playing schedule. No need for major concern for Rafa fans.
The Flying Scot
Andy Murray started his season in a warm-up event in Abu Dhabi. He looked terrible in his first match against Roberto Bautista-Agut. His hip was clearly still hampering him, which is not a good sign. Like Djokovic, he has taken almost 6 months off to try and get over this ailment, with seemingly little progress being made. Murray’s biggest weapon is arguably his defense, and his movement is the key to his defense. Without full speed capabilities, he is bound to have a repeat of 2017 where he lost early in a lot of tournaments and was never able to reach his top level.
Murray fans definitely should be worried about his hip.
What These Injuries Mean For Everyone Else
Roger Federer is the favorite heading into the Australian Open as he looks fit and healthy while playing the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia. As the defending champion, he will be the man to beat on the fast hard court of Rod Laver Arena.
These injury setbacks also provide an opportunity for players on the cusp of breaking through into being contenders for Grand Slams. Dimitrov, Zverev, Raonic, Del Potro, Thiem, and Kyrgios are the most likely to benefit from the absences of some of best players of the last decade. Last year we saw 4 out of 9 Masters 1000 won by a player outside of the Big 4. Expect to see more of the same in 2018 with the next generation stepping up to take their place at the top of the men’s tennis game.