2017 Australian Open Withdrawals Hurt American Tennis

American tennis fans will be missing a couple familiar faces at Melbourne Park, along with one of their young hopefuls.

The biggest names that will be missing from the 2017 Australian Open are not American ones, with Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, and Petra Kvitova all to miss the tournament. However, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, and Catherine Bellis will all miss the first Grand Slam of the season as well, disappointing news for American tennis fans as each player had the potential to hang around to the second week.

Keys tweeted a message just before Christmas indicating that she had offseason surgery, something she described as “minor arthroscopic surgery on (her) left wrist.” She claimed that the “procedure was very short” however that she would still “not be ready to play the 2017 Australian Open” (December 23rd tweet).  The withdrawal comes on the heels of a successful 2016 tennis season, one that saw Keys break into the top ten on tour in part due to a run to the final in Rome. Historically at the Aussie, she has played well with a run to the semifinals in 2015 her best showing in a major. Missing the 2017 tournament will certainly hurt her chances of making the year-end tour finals, however if she’s healthy in March then she promises to be dangerous heading into Indian Wells and Miami.

Stephens withdrew from the Australian Open much more recently. She made the trip down under and seemed to have intentions of trying to participate in the event. However, she pulled out of a minor event that lead up to the Aussie and will miss the first Grand Slam of the season due to a foot injury. Stephens, like Keys, is also a former semifinalist at Melbourne Park as she made that round at the 2013 Australian Open.

Catherine Bellis, who is only 17, has also withdrawn from the tournament. Due to her youth, Bellis doesn’t have a deep run in a major yet. However, she seemed to be an interesting player to watch following a low-tiered title in Hawaii in December. Bellis has a hip injury, according to the official Twitter account for the Australian Open. While the young American is not likely to contest for the late rounds at this point in her career, she did seem to be strong enough for a fourth-round push.

Serena Williams looms large as America’s best hope for Grand Slam glory down under this season. Venus Williams is also expected to be seeded when those come out shortly. American participation in the women’s draw isn’t exactly sparse after the Williams sisters, however expected contenders for the late rounds aren’t really there. Coco Vandeweghe is the next bright light, a player that does have some quarterfinal potential.

The 2017 Australian Open starts on Monday in Melbourne Park. Due to the time zone changes, the television coverage for the tournament will actually begin on Sunday in United States.

Shane Lambert