Tennis fans have been left gutted after Dominic Thiem became the latest high-profile withdrawal from the Australian Open.
Thiem announced on Tuesday that he has pulled out of next month's grand slam due to a long-standing wrist injury.
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The 28-year-old Austrian, who has not played since suffering the injury at the Mallorca Open in June, was unable to defend his US Open title this year.
He had soared to No.3 in the world until the injury halted his progress and has since relegated him to No.15.
"I will miss the Australian fans, but I will be back (there) in 2023," he wrote on Twitter.
"We believe this is the right decision in order to have a good return to competition.
"For the moment I will remain in Austria for a few more days and then head to practise outdoors and get ready for my first event of the season."
Thiem was beaten in the fourth round of the 2021 Australian Open by Grigor Dimitrov, while last year he was beaten in five sets in the final by Novak Djokovic.
He will start his 2022 season in South America at the Cordoba Open in Argentina at the end of January.
Fans were left devastated by the news, sending their well-wishes to Thiem on social media.
"Not a surprise but sad to see Dominic Thiem withdraw from Aus Open," tweeted Zenia D'cunha.
"To think his fitness issues started soon after he made his Grand Slam breakthrough... Tough times for the one-handed backhand boys club."
Not a surprise but sad to see Dominic Thiem withdraw from #AusOpen
He hasn't played since June, picking a wrist injury in a troubled season.
To think his fitness issues started soon after he made his Grand Slam breakthrough...
Tough times for the one-handed backhand boys club.
— Zenia D'cunha (@ZENIADCUNHA) December 28, 2021
This is sad but Thiem has pulled out of the Australian Open and will start his 2022 season on clay instead. https://t.co/70ZpAzXdZt
— Sahil Bhalla (@IMSahilBhalla) December 28, 2021
This makes me sad, but take all the time you need to come back stronger champ.
Tennis needs a fit Thiem, Nadal, Delpo, Federer etc back. 😩😩 https://t.co/g5sLPodncE
— TennisGuru🎾 (@TennisGuru2021) December 28, 2021
Omg… I’m totally shocked! This is such a tough news for me, I can’t wait to see u in Mel again… but anyway it’s quite understandable, wish u all the best and looking forward to seeing you back on court soon!
And definitely want to see u in Mel for AO 2023!
— Bryan (@Bryan36519307) December 28, 2021
this is upsetting but glad to see to that you are doing what’s best for your condition and health overall. can’t wait to see you back on court on your full potential when the time comes, take care ❤️❤️
— 😼 (@mercpie) December 28, 2021
You will definitely be missed at the Australian Open, but glad the wrist is getting better and you will be able to play the end of January. 😃
— LaWanda (@lawanda50) December 28, 2021
Australian Open rocked by spate of withdrawals
The Australian Open will be missing some serious star power in 2022, with Thiem just one of a number of high-profile withdrawals.
Roger Federer is still recovering from a third knee surgery, Serena Williams hasn't fully recovered from a leg injury suffered at Wimbledon, while Bianca Andreescu, Karolina Pliskova, Jennifer Brady and Milos Raonic will also be missing.
There are also question marks surrounding Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Nadal recently tested positive to Covid-19 after playing an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, as did Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev, Bianca Bencic and Ons Jabeur.
Meanwhile, Djokovic's participation is still up in the air due to his refusal to reveal his vaccination status.
Reports emerged last week that Djokovic will not travel to Sydney for the season-opening ATP Cup, which will serve as a lead-up event to the Australian Open.
Djokovic has been named in Serbia's team for the ATP Cup, although the 34-year-old has yet to commit to the Australian Open following the Covid-19 vaccination mandate agreed by Tennis Australia and the Victorian Department of Health.
Serbia have been drawn in Group A - along with Norway, Chile and Spain - at the ATP Cup, which is scheduled for January 1-9 before the Australian Open begins on January 17.
Australian Open chief Craig Tiley said last week that he is still uncertain whether Djokovic will be playing at the Melbourne Park major.
Tiley has said all players and staff at the Australian Open would be vaccinated or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.
Those requirements have prevented Djokovic from confirming whether he will bid for a men's record 21st grand slam title and a 10th Australian Open crown.
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