Andy Murray has withdrawn from the Australian Open, the tournament announced on Thursday.
“Sadly I won’t be playing in Melbourne this year, as I am not yet ready to compete,” said Murray, who is a five-time finalist at the Australian Open.
“I’ll be flying home shortly to assess all the options but I appreciate all the messages of support and I hope to be back playing soon.”
Murray had posted an emotional message on his Instagram account earlier this week, discussing his battle with a hip injury over the past six months. The ex-world No. 1 admits surgery is an option, but it is one he has been trying to avoid. He is yet to make a decision on his next move.
This is the first time since 2007 that Murray will have missed two consecutive Grand Slams, having also skipped the US Open last September.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley wished Murray the very best for his recovery.
“We are fully aware that Andy has been going through a difficult period with his hip and that he’s done everything possible to prepare for the Australian summer,” Tiley said.
“Personally, I also know that Andy loves tennis and would do anything to play. This is a very hard decision for Andy and we totally respect it.
“We wish him the absolute best on his road to recovery and look forward to having him back in Melbourne. He is a true champion and one of our favourites.”
The 12-time Grand Slam tournament winner, who hasn’t played since a right elbow problem forced him to quit Wimbledon in the quarter-finals in July, has already had to shelve his comeback plans, cancelling scheduled appearances at an exhibition in Abu Dhabi and the season-opening Qatar Open.
But a statement on his official website said that the 30-year-old will take part in two events in Melbourne before the start of the Australian Open on January 15.
“Novak is travelling to Australia where he will take part in two exhibition tournaments. After the two events, the decision will be made about his participation at the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, where ‘Nole’ has been crowned champion six times,” said the statement.
Djokovic, now ranked 12th in the world, will play in the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne and then at the Tie Break Tens tournament at Melbourne Park, the site of the season’s opening Grand Slam.
Fellow injured star and current world number one Rafael Nadal is also due to play at the Tie Break Tennis event.
Nadal, the winner of 16 Grand Slam titles, also postponed his scheduled season start at the Abu Dhabi event and this week’s ATP tournament at Brisbane due to ongoing struggles with a knee injury.
Defending champion Karolina Pliskova kicked off her 2018 season in stunning fashion, easing past teenage prodigy Catherine “CiCi” Bellis 6-1, 6-1 in 53 minutes to reach the quarter-finals at the Brisbane International.
Pliskova, who held the world No. 1 ranking for eight weeks last year, had been dealing with an illness in the build-up to the tournament but looked in fine form on court on Wednesday.
“I think it was quite solid. I felt okay on the court. I had some matches already in the end of the first — well, the last year. So was not, like, big hole without matches for me,” said the 25-year-old.
“So, yeah, but anyway, I was a little bit sick. So I was not really — I didn’t know how I’m going to play, how I’m going to feel. So just happy I got this win. Won quite easy. We never played. So I think good start.”
The Czech faces Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi, the 2012 Brisbane champion, in the quarter-finals.
Once ranked as high as No. 15 in the world, Kanepi, now No. 99, is on the comeback trail after missing nearly two years of action due to suffering from Epstein-Barr virus and plantar fasciitis in both feet.
The 32-year-old reached the quarter-finals of the US Open last fall, as a qualifier, and she booked her last-eight spot in Brisbane with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko on Wednesday.
“I think she won the tournament because I saw her on the — where I walk to the locker room. So she must like this conditions also,” Pliskova said of Kanepi.
“I think she’s playing quite similar and good serve, what I remember. So quite good shots. Pretty fast then. So I have to play aggressive and don’t let her play. So that’s now what I think, but maybe we will talk with my coach a little bit more about her.”
Meanwhile, third-seeded Elina Svitolina continued her impressive start to the season when she demolished Croatian Ana Konjuh 6-3, 6-1 to set up a quarter-final against world No. 9 Johanna Konta.
— WTA (@WTA) January 3, 2018
Svitolina took just 64 minutes to see off Konjuh at the Pat Rafter Arena.
The 23-year-old started the week as world number six but would finish it as number four if she wins the tournament. Svitolina won five tournaments in 2017 and goes into the Australian Open as a serious contender for the year’s first Grand Slam.
“I’m playing well and I’m happy that I’m showing good tennis from the start of the year,” Svitolina said. “I try to always find my good tennis out there and, you know, play well. That’s the most important thing.”
Belarusian qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich booked a quarter-final against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet when she beat Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.