Novak Djokovic has sparked fears he could be the latest high-profile withdrawal from the Australian Open after postponing a scheduled practice session on Monday before emerging with heavy strapping on his leg. The grand slam has been rocked by a string of withdrawals, with Nick Kyrgios announcing he was pulling out on Monday due to a knee injury.
He joins fellow Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic as injury casualties, with Carlos Alcaraz, Naomi Osaka, Paula Badosa and Venus Williams also withdrawing before the tournament began. Retired heroes Ash Barty, Roger Federer and Serena Williams are also missing, leaving the Australian Open lacking some serious star power.
'LOST FOR WORDS': Aussies in epic display after Nick Kyrgios drama
But it might not be the end of the high-profile withdrawals, with Djokovic sparking concerns on Monday night after cancelling a scheduled practice session. The 21-time grand slam champion was meant to hit the court at 7pm but never showed up.
It later emerged that Djokovic had cancelled the session, before he took to the court later in the night. However many couldn't help but notice the heavy strapping he had on his left leg after he picked up a hamstring injury at the Adelaide International last week.
The World No.5 is due to face Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain on Tuesday night, but his quest for a 10th Australian Open title appears under a huge cloud. His withdrawal would be a huge body blow for organisers.
“I’ve been struggling with (the hamstring) a bit, to be honest, the last seven days,” Djokovic said in a press conference on Saturday. “But it’s hopefully not the major concern.
"So far I’ve been able to train, compete and play points, practice sets. Obviously, I’m being a bit more cautious. I’m not going full out on the training sessions, conserving the energy for next week. Hopefully it won’t cause an issue for me then.”
After his practice session on Monday night, Djokovic reportedly told fans "see you at the match". The comment appears to allay concerns that his hamstring won't allow the Serbian star to compete.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 16, 2023
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshMedia) January 16, 2023
— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) January 16, 2023
Nick Kyrgios' devastating withdrawal from Australian Open
Meanwhile, Kyrgios has vowed to return bigger and better after his shock withdrawal on Monday afternoon. The Aussie star's long-time physio Will Maher revealed he has a cyst growing on his left meniscus and needs arthroscopy surgery.
"Trust me, my heart is broken," Kyrgios wrote on Twitter on Monday night. "But I'm on the table Monday to get fixed, I'll be back!"
It couldn't come at a worse time for Kyrgios after his breakout year in 2022 which saw him reach the final at Wimbledon and quarter-finals at the US Open. Many were tipping him to make a deep run at Melbourne Park and challenge the likes of Djokovic and Rafa Nadal for the title.
"It hasn't been easy at all," Kyrgios said of his decision. "I'm devastated obviously. It's like my home tournament. I've had some great memories here. Obviously last year winning the title in doubles and playing the best tennis of my life probably.
"I've worked so hard, put myself in the position to (challenge for the title). I was ranked outside 100 a year ago.
"Now I've had the year I had last year and back inside the 20, being seeded at a grand slam, feeling as good as I'm feeling and playing the way I'm feeling. Yeah, I wanted to give myself a chance."
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.