Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Injuries Force Top Two to Quit Australian Open

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Injuries Force Top Two to Quit Australian Open

Article excerpt

Reigning champion Marat Safin and world number two Rafael Nadal last night pulled out of the Australian Open. Both players have been struggling with injuries.

Safin said he would not be able to defend his title ( hours after Spaniard Nadal revealed that a foot injury he had suffered during the Madrid Masters in October had forced him to drop out of the championships.

The 25-year-old Russian was sidelined with a knee injury for the second half of 2005 and, although he is now practising, he is not yet ready to return to Grand Slam action.

Safin said: "I am very sad I cannot go to the Australian Open to defend my title as champion.

"In my heart I know I want to be there to try to play but I have had to listen to what Peter (Lundgren, coach), my team and also myself are saying. I will be back next year."

Safin intends to return to competition at the Open 13 tournament in Marseilles.

Nadal, 19, the current French Open titleholder, had already been forced to miss last week's Chennai Open and this week's Sydney International, but said his injury was on the mend and he took part in a full clay-court training session against Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten in Barcelona on Monday.

But he is still not 100% and Nadal admits it is probably best if he sits out the year's opening grand slam, which starts in Melbourne on Monday, to continue his recovery.

"I am slower than normal, mainly when I have to run to my right, and it is clear that if I travelled to Australia it would not be either at my best tennis-wise, nor physically," Nadal said in Marca.

He has appeared in two Australian Open tournaments, with his best singles appearance coming in 2004 when he reached the fourth round.

Scot Andy Murray fears Mario Ancic's serve and the Auckland wind could scupper his chances of going beyond the Heineken Open second round.

But weather forecasts predicted the gusts would fall to a weekly low in time for his showdown today with the "Son of Goran". …

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