Rafael Nadal: Star's Vacancy from Australian Open Leaves Field Wide Open

Pete Schauer@@Pete_SchauerCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2013

With Rafael Nadal missing the 2013 Australian Open, the opportunity is there for a multitude of players to take the title.

Nadal has been dealing with a knee injury since late June, but ESPN's Kamakshi Tandon reports that it was a stomach virus that kept Rafa out of Doha and the Aussie Open. 

Still, there are questions surrounding the knee and the stamina of Nadal, as Tandon writes:

He has been seen practicing since and probably would have been physically recovered by the time the Australian Open starts, but it sounds as if he and his team felt it was unrealistic to try to play without any warm-up events -- particularly since Nadal wasn't sounding completely certain about his fitness or the state of his knee.

Regardless of the reason, Nadal's absence leaves the door open for fellow stars like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer to earn the Australian Open title in 2013.

Not that either of the three outstanding players would have been blocked from winning if Nadal were healthy, but the Spaniard's absence certainly only aids the chances of someone like Murray winning the tournament.

Since hiring coach Ivan Lendl, Murray's game has been much improved, which he'll need at the Aussie Open—an event that has been nothing but trouble for the Scottish star.

Murray was the runner-up in 2010 and 2011 and lost in the semifinals to the Djoker last year.

Djokovic is favored by many to win the event, as he's the two-time defending champ and has won the Australian Open three out of the last five years.

It could be argued that Federer has the toughest road ahead of the three mentioned above—he could potentially see some tough matchups as the tournament progresses—which is something I recently touched on.

Overall, the devoid of Nadal could mean extra wins for players who would usually be downed by Rafa.

Whether you think Nadal being sidelined is good or bad for the game of tennis, the fact of the matter is that his absence increases the odds of every man's chances in the tournament of winning.

It's not like we're talking about Janko Tipsarevic missing the tournament (sorry, Serbia)—we're talking about one of the game's greats.

While I'm here, I might as well throw my prediction out there.

I'm going with the three-peat. I like Djokovic's chances of fighting off his opponents' attempts and earning his fourth Aussie Open title.

 

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