Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka & Kei Nishikori are all looking to return to the tour fit and healthy in January, in time for the Australian Open. How difficult will it be to make the return for each of the players.
Djokovic was the first of the big guns to call time on the 2017 season. The Serbian withdrew from his quarter-final match at Wimbledon back in July because of an elbow injury.
The former world number one had been battling for 18 months with injury to his right elbow, but it came to a head at the All England Club, when he could not continue anymore.
After consulting specialists it was decided that the Serbian should take the remainder of the season to rest the elbow.
As once a dominant force on the ATP tour, depending on the true extent of the injury, which was still troubling him at the end of September, Djokovic may struggle to get back quickly.
However, the Serbian should be back on form well before the clay season starts if the elbow has healed. Expect Djokovic to win at least one Grand Slam next season.
Warwinka was the second big name to call time on his season. Having been icing his knee regularly during his first round match at Wimbledon, the Swiss number two withdrew from the US Open at the beginning of August. Choosing his health over the title defence.
Wawrinka won the US Open in 2016 but underwent surgery on the knee as a last gasp attempt to fix the issue, in the hope to be able to get back to full fitness for January.
The 32 year old is on the recovery road having been able to say goodbye to his crutches at the end of September.
The Swiss is going to find it difficult to get back to the top, however I believe there will be some titles along the way, but I don’t see a Grand Slam next year for Wawrinka.
The Brit is slightly different to Djokovic & Wawrinka, in that he has not officially called time on the season. Murray hobbled out of Wimbledon in the quarter-final with a hip issue that had been troubling him for a while.
After taking advice from specialists the Brit has been resting the hip since he pulled out of the US Open 48 hours before the event took place.
The former world number one had hoped to compete in Flushing Meadows but the hip was still too sore. The Brit has not played since Wimbledon, and although not officially announced appears unlikely to play the Paris masters, which is where he secured the number one ranking last season.
If, as seems likely, the Brit is out for the rest of the season – although it is reported he has been training and is determined to be back as strong as possible, he will miss the remaining events.
Murray has committed to starting his 2018 season in Brisbane, so just before the Australian Open is the expected return.
The Brit may struggle early in the season, as with a dropped ranking he will face some tough matches in the earlier rounds of the Grand Slams than normal, however with things progressing well, Murray should be back in contention by the summer and his favourite surface grass.
Nishikori called time on his 2017 after a serious wrist tendon injury forced him to withdraw from the Cincinnati Masters in August.
The Japanese has not played since then, and is not yet back to full practice at 100% intensity
This could mean that although entered into the Australian Open, the wrist injury may not have healed in time.
According to Nishikori’s manager the plan is to hit the courts in December and try to get back to full practices at top capacity, so it is not yet certain if the Japanese will be back in time.
Nishikori has already been entered into tour events in February and March which gives the extra matches should he skip or go out early in the Australian Open.
Wrist injuries are very difficult to return from, as Juan Martin Del Potro and Laura Robson can both attest to.
The Japanese will find it the most difficult of the four players to return quickly, and I see him struggling to progress deep into the Grand Slams.
Nishikori will have the most to gain but the most difficult route back to the tour and is not likely to win much next season.