Injury concerns for Azarenka, Osaka ahead of Australian Open

Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka pulled out of the Australian Open warm up events

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Former Australian Open champions Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka joined the list of high profile WTA players hobbled by injury ahead of the Melbourne major.

Osaka withdrew from the Gippsland Trophy ahead of her semi-final clash against Elise Mertens. Azarenka, one of the 72 players forced into hard quarantine in Melbourne, pulled out of the Grampians Trophy quarter-final clash with Anett Kontaveit with a lower back injury.

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They joined the likes of Serena Williams and Simona Halep who aren’t feeling a 100 per cent going into the first major of the season.

“Sorry to Tennis Australia and the fans to have to withdraw today,” Osaka said on the WTA’s Twitter account. “I have a niggling injury and in light of the AO on the horizon I need to be cautious. I look forward to competing next week.”

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On Friday, 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams had withdrawn from the semi-final clash against World No 1 Ashleigh Barty due to a shoulder issue.

Williams, 39, had ousted fellow American Danielle Collins 6-2, 4-6, 10-6 in the Yarra Valley Classic but withdrew hours later despite showing no ill effects during the match.

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While Williams and Osaka’s withdrawals appear precautionary, there might be more concern over Halep’s fitness.

The world number two was thrashed by Alexandrova 6-2, 6-1 in the Gippsland Trophy quarter-finals, where she appeared hampered by a lower-back injury.

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Halep strapped on a back brace after calling for medical attention after the first set, in a lopsided contest lasting just one hour.

Mertens will play Ekaterina Alexandrova or Kaia Kanepi in the Gippsland Trophy final while Barty faces two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza or Marketa Vondrousova in the Yarra Valley Classic decider.

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