“My knee is much better and the rehabilitation process has gone well as predicted by the doctors,” Nadal said in a statement. “But this virus didn’t allow me to practice this past week, and therefore I am sorry to announced that I will not play in Doha and the Australian Open.”
Nadal’s absence greatly improves the chances of several top players in the field.
One player who will surely benefit from Nadal’s withdrawal is Djokovic, who fell to Rafa three times in 2012—at the French Open, ATP Internazionali BNL d’Italia and ATP Monte Carlo Rolex Masters. Nadal and Djokovic are arguably the top two tennis players in the world, and the door is now open for Djokovic to repeat as champion with Nadal out.
Andy Murray is the biggest threat to take the title away from Djokovic. Murray fell to Djokovic at the Australian Open last year in the semifinals after being ahead through three sets, but defeated the Djoker on three separate occasions in 2012. With a 3-4 record against Djokovic for the year, though, there’s no doubt that Murray would love to win the tournament.
Although Nadal pulling out of the Australian Open may increase Murray’s title chances, he doesn’t think that it’s good for tennis, according to Talha Asif of Tennis World USA:
“He’s been in the top few players in the world since he was 17 years old,” Murray told reporters. “It’s been like nine years almost he’s been there, so when he’s not there for a few months, especially with his style and passion and the way that he is one the court, he’s got a lot of energy, so when you lose that for a few months, I think it’s not ideal for tennis.”
Another player whose 2013 Australian Open finals chances just received a boost is Roger Federer. He has won the Australian Open four times in his historic career, but was knocked out courtesy of Nadal in the 2012 semifinals. Federer took the opening set, but Nadal rallied over the next three to advance.
While there's a much better chance for the rest of the field to win now that Nadal will be watching the action at home, there's no doubt that Djokovic is the favorite.