Stan Wawrinka was optimistic – even a week ago – about being about to return to action after knee surgery at the six-man exhibition in Abu Dhabi in 10 days.
On Wednesday, the Swiss star announced that he won’t be ready in time.
“Unfortunately I won’t be able to play in Abu Dhabi this year as I’m not ready yet to complete at this level. Together with my team, I’m working hard and we will do everything to be ready in time for the Australian Open” Wawrinka said in a statement.
“I’m sad that I won’t be able to play in front of the great fans at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship but I need to be patient and give my body the time it needs.”
Wawrinka didn’t enter any of the various warmup events before the big one in Melbourne. There were choices: Doha, Brisbane, Pune, Auckland or Sydney. But if he feels he’s ready, and wants matches, no doubt they’d be willing to give him a wild card.
It does seem likely that he will start straight up again at the Australian Open – assuming, again, that he is ready. The best-of-five set format is a higher threshold than a regular ATP Tour event.
Not everyone is going to be ready
Of all the top players who missed significant time in the second half of the season, Novak Djokovic seems the most ready to get started. The Serb has his new, full team by his side.
Canadian Milos Raonic already is in Melbourne and has a hit-and-giggle planned with fellow New Balance athlete Steve Smith (the Australian cricket captain) at Melbourne Park Thursday.
However, he also has pulled out of the Abu Dhabi event. That may mean something, or nothing. We shall see.
Raonic had planned to go straight from the weekend event to the ATP Tour event in Brisbane. (Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal plan to do this as well).
Murray completed a training block in Miami and returned home before he heads to Abu Dhabi.
Kei Nishikori, who is training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., typically holds a media day for Japanese and other media around this time of the season, to kick off the new year.
At this point, there is no media day planned.
Nishikori plans to return in Brisbane the first week of January. But obviously that will depend – as with Wawrinka – on the state of his injured wrist as he returns from a long layoff.
As for Nadal, there are a few unsubstantiated murmurs out there. And it doesn’t appear – from the limited information you can get on the web, that he has practiced a ton as the Mallorcan looks after his knee.
So that’s a wait-and-see – for both Abu Dhabi, and the tournaments after that.
To replace Raonic and Wawrinka, the exhibition has drafted Kevin Anderson and Next-Gen star Andrey Rublev.
Anderson plans to play the ATP event in Pune, India the following week. Rublev is signed on for the one in nearby Doha.
The exhibition already already has the new roster up on its website, so clearly the organizers were prepared.