Nick Kyrgios has finalised his Australian Open preparations as the grand slam braces for a glut of star omissions after Dominic Thiem joined the list of casualties.
The divisive Australian talent, now ranked No.93 in the world after a quiet 2021 season that last saw him play just 15 matches, will contest the Sydney Tennis Classic from January 10.
It’ll be the former world No.13’s final hit-out ahead of the Australian Open, while he’s set to return at the Melbourne Summer Set from January 4.
Eighteen of the world’s top 24 women, including Australia’s world No.1 Ashleigh Barty will tune-up for the Open at Sydney Olympic Park, as will Australian men’s No.1 Alex de Minaur.
Barty hit the training court at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Wednesday to help fine-tune her preparation before making the trip north.
“I’ve been training at home in Canberra and here in Sydney and I feel good after an extended break from the game,” Kyrgios, who will start the year as Australia’s sixth-ranked man, said.
“I’m looking forward to the final hit-out before the AO, thanks to Tennis Australia for the opportunity to play.”
Injury and a reluctance to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the mercurial talent’s slide down the rankings.
But his box-office standing at Melbourne Park next month shapes to be as crucial as ever, given the uncertainty surrounding the status of the sport’s biggest names.
Top of the list is Novak Djokovic, who is bidding for a men’s record 21st grand slam title and a 10th Australian Open crown.
The 34-year-old has yet to commit to the Australian Open following the COVID-19 vaccination mandate agreed by Tennis Australia and the Victorian Department of Health.
Djokovic has repeatedly declined to disclose whether or not he is vaccinated, citing privacy concerns.
The Serbian is scheduled to head his country’s charge at the ATP Cup from January 1 in Sydney, Tennis Australia this week denying claims in European press that he has withdrawn.
Beaten 2020 finalist Dominic Thiem on Tuesday night withdrew, citing a wrist injury, joining 20-time grand slam winner Roger Federer (knee) on the high-profile injury list.
Fellow 20-time title winner Rafael Nadal, current world No.5 Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov (No.14) have contracted the coronavirus and may be doubtful participants.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams, Karolina Pliskova and Bianca Andreescu won’t be in Melbourne, while Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and US Open winner Emma Raducanu have contracted the coronavirus.