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Carlos Alcaraz withdraws from Australian Open, opening door for Novak Djokovic

World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz has pulled out of the Australian Open due to a leg injury.

Andy Brownbill/AP

World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz has pulled out of the Australian Open due to a leg injury.

Novak Djokovic has confirmed in favoritism to land a record-equaling 22nd grand slam singles crown following the Australian Open scratching of teenage world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz is the latest superstar drawcard who will miss this month’s Open after being forced out of the Melbourne major with a leg injury.

The 19-year-old Spaniard, who won his maiden grand slam title at the US Open in Septemberrevealed he suffered a hamstring injury during pre-season training.

“I had worked a lot to reach my best level in Australia. Unfortunately I won’t be able to play either the Care A2+ Kooyong [warm-up event] or the Australian Open,” Alcaraz posted on social media on Saturday.

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“It is a hard moment, but I have to be optimistic, recover and look ahead. See you in 2024 Australian Open.”

Alcaraz had only just recovered from a torn abdominal muscle that ruled him out of the season-ending ATP Finals and Davis Cup Finals.

“When I was at my best in pre-season, I picked up an injury through a chance, unnatural movement in training. This time it’s the semimembranosus muscle in my right leg,” he said.

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Spain’s 19-year-old says he “dreamt of this as a kid” after becoming the youngest US Open champion for 32 years.

Alcaraz rocketed to the top of the rankings last year, becoming the youngest man ever to reach No 1 after beating Casper Ruud in the US Open final in New York.

His withdrawal means countryman and reigning champion Rafael Nadal will be promoted to top seed for his title defense when the season’s first grand slam gets under way at Melbourne Park on January 16.

But it’s Djokovic’s stocks that have really soared.

A year later being kicked out of Australia for failing to get vaccinated against Covid-19the Serbian’s fortunes have sky-rocketed.

First Djokovic successfully had his three-year Australian visa ban overturned in Novemberallowing the nine-time champion to return to Melbourne to hunt down a record-extending 10th Open trophy.

Now his chief challenger is out of the tournament and Djokovic – who this week extended his five-year unbeaten run in Australia to 32 matches in Adelaide – will crucially be bumped up to fourth seed.

The elevation means the 35-year-old is guaranteed to avoid playing a higher-ranked rival – Nadal, Ruud or Stefanos Tsitsipas – until at least the semifinals.

Alcaraz’s absence from the Open follows the retirements last year of women’s titleholder Ash Barty, seven-time champion Serena Williams and six-time men’s champion Roger Federer.

Dual Open winner and fellow former world No 1 Naomi Osaka is in extreme doubt, having not played since September and not featuring at any of the lead-up events in Australia.

The Open draw takes place at Melbourne Park on Thursday.

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