Novak Djokovic has pronounced himself “very, very happy” after his first match for six months following elbow trouble. But doubts surfaced over Stan Wawrinka’s fitness for next week’s Australian Open after he pulled out of an exhibition event.
Wawrinka, who has been sidelined for the same period after knee surgery, has been practising here for a week but says he will compete in the year’s opening Grand Slam only if there is “zero risk” of jeopardising his long-term fitness.
The 2014 Australian Open champion was due to play in today’s Tie Break Tens exhibition at Melbourne Park but Milos Raonic came in as a late replacement.
Wawrinka’s agent said his withdrawal was “precautionary”, but it remains to be seen whether the world No9 will make it to next week’s start line, especially as he has not played any warm-up events.
Djokovic’s participation here had also been in doubt after he pulled out of last week’s Qatar Open. The Serb said he would assess his fitness again this week and was encouraged by his 6-1, 6-4 victory over Dominic Thiem, the world No5, at the Kooyong Classic exhibition event. Djokovic, who also took part in the Tie Break Tens, played with an abbreviated service action and had a protective sleeve on his right arm.
“I’m very, very happy with the way it went today, but I don’t want to say it’s 100 per cent,” said the former world No1 after beating Thiem. “I’ll say that when I start a tournament and when I get to actually feel that it’s 100 per cent. For now, I’m in the [Australian Open] and let’s hope, with God’s grace, that everything will be fine in the next five days.”
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza has also been struggling with fitness and today pulled out of the Sydney International with a thigh injury despite winning her second-round match against Kiki Bertens. Heather Watson beat Australia’s Jaimee Fourlis 6-2, 6-2 in the second round of the Hobart International.