MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — World no. 3 Naomi Osaka joined Serena Williams and Simona Halep with injury concerns ahead of the Australian Open while defending champion Sofia Kenin blamed her groin strain on spending two weeks in coronavirus quarantine.
Osaka, the US Open champion and 2019 Australian Open winner, was set to play Elise Mertens in the Gippsland Trophy semifinal but withdrew.
“Sorry to Tennis Australia and the fans to have to withdraw today,” she said on the WTA’s Twitter account.
“I have a niggling injury and in light of the AO (Australian Open) on the horizon I need to be cautious. I look forward to competing next week.”
Osaka looked in fine form powering past Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5, 6-1 in 76 minutes on Friday.
She joined Williams as a late withdrawal after the American 23-time Grand Slam winner pulled out of her semifinal clash against world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty with a shoulder problem Friday.
Williams, 39, ousted fellow American Danielle Collins 6-2, 4-6, 10-6 in the Yarra Valley Classic but withdrew hours later, despite showing no ill effects during the match.
Spanish world No. 2 Rafael Nadal has also been struggling with a lower back niggle again keeping him out of the ATP Cup.
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka was another casualty, opting not to play her quarterfinal clash with Anett Kontaveit at the Grampians Trophy due to a lower-back injury.
World No. 4 Kenin said not being able to practise properly during quarantine had left her “completely sore” after returning to action.
Due to Australia’s strict rules for incoming travellers, players underwent a compulsory 14-day quarantine on arrival but were granted daily five-hour blocks for training and treatment.
Some players, including Azarenka, had to endure a hard lockdown and were not able to train at all after coronavirus cases were detected on their charter flights.
“After two matches, my leg is completely sore,” Kenin said.
“You can see that being in a room for two weeks, not playing, practicing, it’s not the same as playing a match clearly.”
“People who haven’t played matches for two weeks, it’s obviously not the same.”
The American added that she hoped to be fit and firing when the Grand Slam starts on Monday.
“Today, it’s better. I’m not going to complain about that,” she said.