Australian Open: Federer in pole position to retain title as his arch rivals continue to nurse injuries
Just when the tennis fans were relishing the possibility of comeback of the 'Big Four' since Wimbledon 2017, three of them continue to battle fitness issues. As the sun shines brightly on the Melbourne park, the light seems dark for the top players.
World No.1 Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Brisbane International as he is still struggling with a knee injury and which has cast doubts over his chances at the Australian Open which commences on January 15. He will find it difficult as the hard court doesn't suit his knees. Notwithstanding he is hoping to compete at the event in which he finished runner-up last year.
"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," Nadal tweeted on last Thursday.
The Serbian, Novak Djokovic is still experiencing pain in his right elbow and has backed out of the warm up tournaments prior to the first grand slam of the year. He already missed out on the season after Wimbledon 2017 and has slipped down to 12 in the ATP Rankings. The six-time Australian Open champion's participation seems unlikely. He will continue with the treatment of his right elbow till he is fully fit.
A dejected Andy Murray withdrew from Brisbane International due to a lingering hip injury which also squandered his plans of competing in US Open last year. He may consider undergoing a hip surgery to get back on the circuit. With analysts skeptical about his return, all this adds to his woes. The Briton No.1 posted a heartfelt message on Instagram along with a childhood picture of himself.
This certainly opens up for draw for Nadal's arch rival Roger Federer, who will find it easier due to absence of the top guns. The defending champion who beat Nadal in a five set thriller last year will be the favourite to win the title and increase his grand slam tally to 20. The World No.2 is feeling healthy and tweaking his playing schedule last year proved to be a major success as he won two grand slams including a record eighth Wimbledon title on his beloved grass surface.
Tomas Berdych recently made a remark that he expects the Big Four era to end, in the hope of achieving his dream of winning a grand slam and prays that the top two ranked players won't crush his dream.
With the young players like Dominic Theim, Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios proving their prowess on the court last year, this news will fancy their chances of winning their maiden grand slam. All of them have started the season on a high note with each of them winning their first few matches in the warm up tournaments. Milos Roanic will also benefit as the Canadian would be able to avoid early clashes with the quartet.
If the 'Big Four' do manage to get themselves to Melbourne, it will be a treat to watch them slugging it out for the title. Now only time will tell the tale.