Novak Djokovic could have a much clearer path to a possible 10th Australian Open title due to the injury pullout of world No. 1 Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz.
The teenager who grabbed the top spot from Daniil Medvedev through his US open title four months ago, has had a poor run since his big day.
Alcaraz suffered with an abdominal muscle injury in the autumn and tweaked his leg during preseason training before withdrawing from the Open.
Former top man Djokovic will be seeded fifth at Melbourne Park and made sure to lament the absence of Alcaraz after reaching the ATP final in Adelaide.
“It’s not good for the tournament, not good for tennis,” the 21-time Grand Slam winner said.
“He’s a big name, big star in our sport already. I hope for his speedy recovery.
“When you are out of (match) rhythm, the body can react. You can have some injuries and difficulties when you come back to the tour and start pushing more and playing points,.
“He’s still young, got plenty of time. I hope he can recover and be back on the tour quickly.”
With top seed Rafael Nadal experiencing poor form, Djokovic is emerging as the title favourite, though his chances are so overpowering that his winning odds are shortening.