Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open winner and 2012 runner-up, was an obstacle for tennis players hoping to claim the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup. Due to his withdrawal from this year’s tournament, each star's shot at winning has become more realistic and they must take advantage.
Roger Federer, a four-time Australian Open champion, has won the event just once since 2007. He’ll arguably benefit more than anyone from Nadal’s withdrawal. The Swiss legend is just 10-18 all-time against Rafa (ATP World Tour), and that includes a loss at Melbourne Park in the 2009 final.
According to Kamakshi Tandon of ESPN, Federer declined to participate in a lead-up tourney to the event, but is still confident about his preparation:
It's a bit of a different preparation for the Australian Open this year, but I'm confident that if I'm fresh, which I feel I am, and physically I'm fine, which I am too, that I will play a good Australian Open.
Andy Murray will also benefit greatly from Nadal’s absence. He finally got the monkey off his back by winning his first Grand Slam at the 2012 U.S. Open, and has every reason to be confident entering 2013 (via ESPN): "Now that I've managed to do it, I hope that when I'm in those situations again I'll deal with them better and put less pressure on myself, which obviously will help me play better.”
It just so happens that the Spaniard couldn’t suit up in that tournament, either. In that sense, Murray still hasn’t won a major tournament—in Queens or at the 2012 London Summer Olympics—when Nadal has played.
As things stand, Djokovic is favored to win the Australian Open, and he should have been favored even if Rafa was able to compete. The Serbian has won the last two at Melbourne, but that doesn’t mean he too won’t benefit from no Nadal. Djoker was just 1-3 against him last season (ATP World Tour).
Of course, other players' odds to win—who aren’t household names—increased as well. However, because such an incredible hurdle has been removed from Federer, Murray and Djokovic’s path, these three superstars can’t allow such an opportunity to escape their grasp.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.