The Sydney International has been dealt a huge blow with two of the tournament’s top drawcards withdrawing from the event on Sunday.
Reigning tournament champion and world No.6 Petra Kvitova was the first to pull the pin, heading to Melbourne earlier than anticipated with a gastrointestinal illness.
The tournament No.3 seed’s withdrawal was shortly followed by No.2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who has a leg injury heading into the opening grand slam of the year.
“I’m really disappointed to have to withdraw from the Apia International Sydney but unfortunately I am still not feeling well,” Kvitova said.
“Being defending champion, this tournament obviously means a lot to me and I’ve always had a wonderful time playing this event. I look forward to coming back in future years to play for my fantastic fans.”
The injuries keep piling up on the women’s side of the draw heading into the n Open with Radwanska and Kvitova joining Serena Williams (back), Maria Sharapova (forearm), Garbine Muguruza (leg), Simona Halep (Achilles) and Sam Stosur (wrist) as the walking wounded.
Stosur will open her Sydney International campaign against Italian Roberta Vinci on Monday afternoon, albeit with the discomfort of a right wrist injury.
Halep believes the n has the game to leave an impact on the summer despite a terrible record on home soil.
“I think she has the game to do everything in Melbourne,” Halep said.
“She’s already grand slam champion, so she knows how to play the grand slams. But still, when you are at home it’s difficult with the fans. You don’t want to lose because you don’t want to disappoint the people from your home.
“So it’s tough. I know, I’ve played in my country as well. That was a big difference because the tournament was very small. It’s not easy to handle the pressure and it’s not easy to handle the attention that you are home and you have to win.”
On the opening day of the tournament, n Tammi Patterson was no match for Svetlana Kuznetsova, going down 6-2, 6-0 on Ken Rosewall Arena.
The 2014 champion Tsvetana Pironkova was too strong for Ukranian Lesia Tsurenko, while American Coco Vandeweghe was bundled out by Serbian Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-4.
The opening round of the men’s draw begins on Monday, with n Jordan Thompson taking on Martin Klizan, while John Millman takes on veteran Tommy Robredo in the twilight session.
Hopman Cup hero Daria Gavrilova will make her first appearance against qualifier Monica Puig.
Angelique Kerber has touched down in Sydney fresh off her Brisbane International final loss against Victoria Azarenka and will look to continue her good run of form when she squares off against Elina Svitolina on Ken Rosewall Arena.
Swiss teen sensation Belinda Bencic will also begin her campaign against Croatian qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.