SYDNEY (Reuters) - Gilles Simon, Radek Stepanek and Kei Nishikori all pulled out of Australian Open warm-up events on Wednesday as fields at the tournaments in the week running up to the year’s first grand slam continued to be depleted by injury.
Frenchman Simon, who sustained a neck injury playing doubles on Tuesday, and Czech Stepanek withdrew from the men’s draw at the Sydney International, while Japan’s Nishikori was forced to pull out of the Kooyong Classic with a knee injury.
Nishikori was the second player to withdraw from the eight-man field at Kooyong before the tournament got underway on Wednesday with Argentine Juan Monaco blaming a hand injury for his pull-out on Tuesday.
“The week before the slams, players don’t want to take any risks, which is normal but sad also for this one because Sydney is a very nice tournament and deserves to have a very nice draw,” Sydney second seed and 2011 champion Simon told reporters.
”We just try the maximum to be ready and if we feel it’s too difficult to be on the court ... I mean, for me today, there is no point in me going out and losing 6-2 6-2 playing 50 percent.
“It is sad I can’t play today, but it has to be.”
Simon’s withdrawal was the third by a Frenchman in Sydney this year after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, then the top two seeds, pulled out because of a hamstring injury and for “personal reasons” respectively.
“I did a lot of treatments yesterday and this morning. I feel better, but not good enough to go on the court and defend my chances,” Simon said of his neck injury, adding that he was confident of being ready for the Australia Open.
“I have time if I don’t have any complication. Every time it’s really difficult for three or four days, so it will be all right. But it’s of course not the best preparation.”
As Simon pointed out, though, at least one Frenchman benefited from the withdrawals with Julien Benneteau reaching the quarter-finals after playing just four points before Stepanek’s perennial back problems forced him to retire.
There was also good news on the weather front with temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius at the Olympic Tennis Centre as opposed to the 40-degree heat which prevailed on Tuesday.
Simon’s opponent Jarkko Nieminen, the defending champion, will instead play lucky loser Ivo Klec, while world number 18 Nishikori will be replaced at Kooyong by Croatian Ivan Dodig in a round-robin match against Czech Tomas Berdych.
In Sydney, local talent Bernard Tomic later plays German Florian Mayer for a place in the last eight, while top seed and world number four Agnieska Radwanska’s match against Roberta Vinci is the highlight of the action in the women’s draw.
Editing by Patrick Johnston