Bencic backs stars to be on deck for Open

Swiss young gun Belinda Bencic has no doubts the world’s tennis aces will recover in time to line up for the Australian Open on Monday.

In-form German Angelique Kerber on Tuesday became the latest of the women’s top 10 to either scratch themselves or suffer a first-round exit in an Open lead-up event.

Kerber, runner-up to two-time Open champion Victoria Azarenka in Brisbane last week, cited gastro for her withdrawal and admitted she pulled out to save herself for the season’s first grand slam in Melbourne.

Kerber’s withdrawal follows setbacks for world No.1 Serena Williams (knee) and the six-time champion’s chief challengers Simona Halep (achilles tendon), Garbine Muguruza (foot), Agnieszka Radwanska (leg), Maria Sharapova (forearm) and Petra Kvitova (gastro).

World No.9 Lucie Safarova, the Roland Garros runner-up last year, has already ruled herself out of the Open with a bacterial infection.

Bencic, the world No.14 with a bullet, can’t believe the carnage happening around her.

“It’s crazy. It’s like everyone from the top 10 withdraws,” she said after storming past former champion Tsvetana Pironkova 6-3 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the Sydney International.

“I’m happy I’m OK to play. I feel very good after a good off-season.

“I think in the new year you’re supposed to be ready and healthy.

“Obviously it’s a tough schedule all year. It’s a lot of tournaments. If you start the year like this, then it can only get worse.

“Yeah, I’m also a little bit shocked about that.”

Bencic, though, believes Open officials and fans needn’t worry.

“For sure they will be playing there. They don’t want to risk anything and try to be ready for Melbourne,” Bencic said after charging into the Sydney International quarter-finals.

“I mean, for sure they won’t retire there.”

After a breakout two-title season in 2015, 18-year-old Bencic looms as an Open dark horse – but is refusing to look beyond even her next match in Sydney against Ekaterina Makarova.

“I’m really focused for tomorrow and happy to be in the quarters first of all,” the teenager said.

“Now I want to go step by step.”

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