Williams and Nadal battle Australian Open injuries

Serena Williams is confident her shoulder issue won’t affect her Australian Open campaign but concedes she’ll have to manage the injury across the tournament. Williams pulled out of her Yarra Valley Classic semi-final clash with Ash Barty on Friday, citing a right shoulder injury.

“I feel pretty good – I’ve gotten a lot of treatment already on my shoulder but I’m super confident it’s going to be great,” Williams told reporters on Saturday.

“It’s definitely something that I’m gonna have to deal with for the fortnight and kind of knowing that going into the tournament definitely helped. But also knowing I’m going to probably have to pick up some different therapy exercises after each match etc is going to be really important.”

Williams said the fact warm-up tournament games were now being played close to the start of the Australian Open hadn’t contributed to her decision to pull out of her match against Barty. “I didn’t really think about that so much,” she said.

“I was just thinking about more or less how I was feeling I think at my age and my career I really just try to go on how I’m feeling physically and not put myself in a bad position in general for my health.”

The 39-year-old is chasing a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title and her eighth Australian Open. She faces Germany’s Laura Siegemund in the first round.

Over in the men’s draw, Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has moved to assure fans Rafael Nadal’s nagging back injury will not prevent the world No.2 from chasing a record 21st grand slam title. Nadal cited a “stiff low back” as the reason behind his decision to withdraw from Spain’s ATP Cup matches this week.

The 34-year-old was a spectator in the stands at John Cain Arena on Saturday as Spain fell to Italy in their semi-final. But Tiley, after confirming the Open draw on Friday, said he has no doubt Nadal will be fit to take on Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the first round.

“I see Rafa every day, he hit for an hour and a half (on Friday),” Tiley said. “Out of extra caution he chose not to play in the ATP Cup, even though Spain are in the semi-finals.

“He’s out practising and he’s indicated he’ll be ready. He’s protecting his opportunity to win a 21st grand slam.”

Nadal has endured a string of near misses at the Australian Open, with his sole triumph at Melbourne Park coming way back in 2009. The Spanish superstar has lost the Australian Open final four times and injuries have also hampered his chances in other years.

Nadal tied Roger Federer’s haul of 20 grand slam singles titles last year when he clinched his 13th French Open crown.

Williams and Nadal are not the only big names under injury clouds. Former Australian Open champions Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka both pulled out of their respective Australian Open warm-up events.

Osaka withdrew from her Gippsland Trophy semi-final against Elise Mertens on Saturday, citing the need to manage a niggling injury. “Sorry to Tennis Australia and the fans to have to withdraw today,” the world No.3 said. “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.” Osaka will face Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round.

Azarenka withdrew from her Grampians Trophy quarter-final clash with Anett Kontaveit with a lower back injury. The world No.13 was one of the players forced into a hard 14-day hotel quarantine, and is scheduled to face American Jessica Pegula in the first round.