World number one Novak Djokovic is wary of the threat Andy Murray poses heading into the first grand slam of the year.
The Brit has just come back from a hip injury and will be playing just his second grand slam event in Melbourne next month since Wimbledon 2017.
After surgery Murray’s ranking has plummeted to 256 in the world with the former Wimbledon champion using his protected ranking to enter the Australian Open and Brisbane next week.
Despite the Brit’s injury concerns, Novak Djokovic is still wary of the threat that Murray can pose heading into the Australian Open in a couple of weeks time.
“He’s always going to be the No. 1 because he was No. 1 in the world and a multiple Grand Slam winner so he has the No. 1 in the world and champions’ mentality,” said Djokovic, when speaking to Bein Sports.
“I’ve known him since we were 11 or 12 years old and I have tonnes of respect for him, for his game and his dedication and devotion to training methods and ethics. I always see him as a top player regardless of his ranking.”
The reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion will begin his season in Doha where he will play singles and also doubles with his brother, Marko.
In the singles Djokovic will take on Damir Dzumhur in the opening round with a potential final against Dominic Thiem awaiting him.
While Andy Murray will play his first tournament since the Shenzhen Open in September when he faces James Duckworth in Brisbane, in a US Open rematch.
Should the Brit make the second round he would face 4th seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev as Rafael Nadal, Kyle Edmund and Grigor Dimitrov are also competing in Australia this week.
Tomas Berdych to Miss French Open For The First Time Since 2003
It will be the third grand slam the former top 10 player has missed within the past 12 months.
Former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych will not play any clay court tournaments in 2019 after withdrawing from the upcoming French Open.
The 33-year-old has been absent from the tour since his first round loss to Feliciano Lopez in Indian Wells. Berdych has been hampered by issues within his back in recent weeks. He has been hoping to be fit in time for Roland Garros, but made a decision to withdraw from the event on Wednesday.
“I am not 100% ready to play the way I want and need to be competitive on the courts I love so much,” Berdych wrote on social media.
“I came to Paris and I had to take a tough decision and want another few days to fully recover and be ready for the grass season.”
“I love this tournament so much but I have to make sure not to further injure myself,” he added.
The Czech had played at the tournament every year since making his debut back in 2004. However, the French Open is his worst performing grand slam in terms of wins. So far in his career, Berdych has won 25 out of 40 matches played at the French Open. His stand out performance occurred in 2010 when he reached the semi-finals before losing to Sweden’s Robin Soderling.
It is not the first time back issues have forced Berdych out of action. In 2017 he was advised by doctors to end his season early due to persistent ‘back pain.’ He was also forced to skip both Wimbledon and the US Open due to the same problem.
Berdych, who last won a title at the 2016 Shenzhen Open, has played six tournaments so far this year. His best result occurred in January with a run to the final of the Qatar Open. He also reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and was a semi-finalist in Montpellier.
As a result of his absence, Berdych is currently ranked 100th in the world rankings. He will be replaced in the French Open draw by a lucky loser.
Simona Halep Dismisses Favourite Tag Ahead Of French Open
The Romanian looks ahead to the grand slam after her exit from Rome.
Former world No.1 Simona Halep has played down her title chances in the upcoming French Open by saying ‘anyone can win’ the title next month.
The 27-year-old is the reigning champion at the tournament after claiming her maiden grand slam title there is 2018. Halep has featured in the final of the tournament three times since 2014. The world No.2 is one of the favourites to claim the trophy at Roland Garros, however, she hasn’t won a title on the WTA Tour since August at the Rogers Cup.
“I don’t know what is going to happen at the French Open.” Halep told reporters on Thursday. “I always said in the last few months that tennis is very open now. The top (of the women’s game) is open. Anyone can win. Kiki Bertens has a chance, in my opinion. Stephens again. Many players are playing well on clay.’
“We will see. I’m very curious.” She added.
So far this season, only two women have managed to win multiple titles on the WTA Tour. Petra Kvitova in Sydney and Stuttgart, as well as Kiki Bertens in St Petersburg and Madrid. Overall, there has been 21 different winners so far in 2019. Six of which are currently ranked in the world’s top 10.
Halep’s preparation for the upcoming major has hit a setback this week. At the Italian Open, she crashed out of her opening match to Czech player Markéta Vondroušová. Suffering her earliest exit from the tournament since 2016. During that match, she sought medical treatment on her leg after feeling pain during the second set.
“I started to feel a little bit (of pain) from sliding.” Said Halep.
“I had two days off, so it was a little bit tough to get back to this rhythm, very high rhythm.
But it is nothing, like, tight or something broken. Is just a little bit of injury, which in a few days is going to be okay, I’m sure.” She added.
Whilst the 27-year-old is staying grounded about her chances of success at the French Open, she has been labelled as the favourite for the title by some former champions. Earlier this month Justine Henin backed the Romanian by saying she is ‘the most complete player.’ Meanwhile, another high profile backer is three-time champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
“It is wide open at this moment to see who is going to win. If I want to pick one player, who is more able and resourceful, I must say it is Simona Halep. She stands a good chance, but depends on how she would control the pressure. However, I do not count out other women contenders,” Vicario told the Press Trust of India.
The French Open will get underway on May 26th.
Maria Sharapova To Miss French Open
The Russian hasn’t played a competitive match on the tour for almost four months.
Former world No.1 Maria Sharapova will miss the entire clay court swing of 2019 after officially withdrawing from the French Open later this month.
The five-time grand slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match since withdrawing from the second round of the St Petersburg Open on January 30th. Sharapova has been absent from the tour due to an ongoing shoulder injury. Earlier this year she underwent a ‘minor’ surgical procedure to help ease the pain in the area. The pain was caused by a fraying tendon and small labrum tear.
“Withdrawing from the French Open today. Sometimes the right decisions aren’t always the easy ones.” Sharapova wrote in her Instagram story.
“In better news, I have returned to the practice court, and slowly building the strength back in my shoulder.” She added.
Sharapova reached the quarter-finals of the French Open last year is what is her best grand slam result since returning from a doping ban. At the tournament she scored wins over Donna Vekic and Karolina Pliskova before falling to Garbine Muguruza. Due to her upcoming absence from Roland Garros, she will drop 430 ranking points.
Prior to her injury woes, the 32-year-old has managed to play in three tournaments during the first month of this season. Reaching the quarter-finals in Shenzhen followed by the fourth round at the Australian Open. Overall, she has won six out of eight matches played.
It is unclear as to when Sharapova will return to the tour. The Daily Mail has reported that the Russian was not on the list of player’s participating in the upcoming Nature Valley Classic at Edgbaston Priory. A grass-court event that will start on June 15th. It is understood that in return for her receiving a wildcard into the 2017 tournament, she has a two-year commitment to play there in the future. Meaning that she should be playing this year if fit.
Sharapova has won 36 WTA titles during her career and has spent 21 weeks as world No.1.
Maria Sharapova withdraws from French Open. Will have played it just once in the last four years. Has played only 8 matches all year & has not reached a final in any tournament since 2017. Dropping to around 50 in rankings Monday & French Open QF from 2018 will come off soon
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) May 15, 2019
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