French Open runner-up Lucie Safarova has joined the Australian Open casualty ward, withdrawing from the season’s first grand slam as she continues to battle a bacterial infection.
Safarova, the reigning Australian Open women’s doubles champion with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, was hospitalised in September and now says she’s suffering joint soreness and can’t prepare properly.
“As an athlete I’m used to fight on court to win. Today it’s off court to get my health back. Sorry Ausie (sic) I miss you,” the world No.9 tweeted on Friday.
“The treatment of my bacterial infection has become complicated in recent days,” Safarova added in a statement.
“I couldn’t do the training that would allow me to fly to the tournaments in Australia well prepared.
“That’s why I have decided to pull out, not to burden the (organisers) by travelling, and focus on treatment.”
Safarova’s camp said the Czech had been diagnosed with rheumatic fever.
“My joints still hurt and so I can’t prepare the way I and my coach would like,” she said.
“The bio-chemical checks are not a hundred per cent either.”
Safarova is targeting a return for the Czech Republic’s first-round Fed Cup tie in Romania on February 6-7.
“If not, I will focus on the US tournaments on the WTA circuit (scheduled for March),” the left-hander said.
Safarova’s scratching adds to injury clouds hanging over the world’s top four women’s players just 10 days out from the start of the Open.
World No.1 and defending champion Serena Williams pulled out of the Hopman Cup in Perth with a knee injury that had sidelined her since September.
World No.2 Simona Halep (achilles tendon) and the fourth-ranked Maria Sharapova (forearm) both withdrew from the Brisbane International without even hitting a ball.
Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza, the world No.3, succumbed to a foot injury in Brisbane, while Australian No.1 Samantha Stosur is struggling with a wrist problem.
The leading women’s players aren’t the only stars in the sick bay.
Four-time men’s Open champion Roger Federer has been laid low for much of this week with a bug, world No.9 Richard Gasquet is already out with a back injury and fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils (leg) was an early withdrawal from the Hopman Cup.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN SICK BAY:
* Women’s world No.1 Serena Williams (knee) – in doubt
* Women’s world No.2 Simona Halep (achilles tendon) – under a cloud
* Women’s world No.3 Garbine Muguruza (foot) – in doubt
* Women’s world No.4 Maria Sharapova (forearm) – in doubt
* Women’s world No.9 Lucie Safarova (bacterial infection) – out
* Men’s world No.3 Roger Federer (bug) – under a cloud
* Men’s world No.9 Richard Gasquet (back) – out
* Men’s world No.16 Gael Monfils (leg) – under a cloud
* Samantha Stosur (wrist) – under a cloud
* Casey Dellacqua (concussion) – out
* Ajla Tomljanovic (stomach) – under a cloud
* Thanasi Kokkinakis (shoulder) – out