Two-time champion Naomi Osaka has announced her pregnancy a week after withdrawing from the Australian Open.
The Japanese star has won two of the last four Australian Opens, lifting the trophy in 2019 and 2021.
Osaka didn't initially provide the reason for her withdrawal, and Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska has now taken up her spot in the main draw.
|Where||Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia|
|When||Monday 16th January - Sunday 29th January|
|How to watch||Eurosport, Discovery+|
|Odds||Iga Swiatek 7/4, Aryna Sabalenka 9/1, Caroline Garcia 11/1, Ons Jabeur 12/1, Jessica Pegula 12/1|
However it means Japan's Osaka may now drop out of the world's top 50 at the end of the month after withdrawing from another tournament.
The former world number one had hoped to win her third title in Melbourne, but her participation was in doubt after failing to enter any warm-up events in Adelaide or Hobart. Australian Open organisers have now revealed she will not feature, and fans continue to wait for a glimpse of Osaka in action.
The world number 42 has not been seen in action since September on the WTA Tour when an injury forced her to withdraw from her match against Beatriz Haddad Maia in the Pan Pacific Open on home soil in Tokyo.
Osaka ended the 2022 campaign out of form, losing in the first round of three tournaments, including the US Open in September. She failed to advance into the second round at the French Open, while an Achilles injury forced her to miss Wimbledon last summer.
It has been a hectic few days on the WTA Tour, with Emma Raducanu's chances of featuring in Melbourne still in doubt. The 20-year-old had been preparing for the event in Auckland at the ASB Classic, but she had to retire during her second-round match against Slovakia's Viktoria Kuzmova after rolling her ankle.
Raducanu had looked sharp during her first match, but she has yet to receive the full diagnosis of her injury, with the former US Open champion hoping she has only suffered a minor strain.
Her entire 2022 campaign was plagued by injury and, if she is passed fit, she will hope to improve on her performance at last year's Australian Open.
While Raducanu may still have a chance to feature, veteran Venus Williams will not.
The 42-year-old has decided to withdraw from the Australian Open, as she suffered an injury at the ASB Classic.
With Osaka out and Raducanu a doubt, those are two big names in the women's draw potentially out of the way. That should give those still planning to play a huge lift, and their path to the final may also be helped by Iga Swiatek's injury woes.
The world number one, who reached the semi-finals in 2022, is struggling with her right shoulder ahead of her first match in Melbourne.
Swiatek was in tears after she lost to Jessica Pegula in straight sets in the United Cup mixed teams tournament in Sydney on Friday, and she has already withdrawn from the Adelaide International 2 WTA 500 next week.
Should Swiatek struggle to prove her fitness, then second favourite Aryna Sabalenka may be tough to stop. She will head to Melbourne with a spring in her step after she won her 11th WTA Tour title at the Adelaide International. Her success on Sunday was her first in almost two years as she beat qualifier Linda Noskova 6-2 7-6.
Sabalenka failed to drop a set all week, and that suggests she has found her best form ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year.
American Coco Gauff is another that could go far in Australia as she tries to better her fourth-round exit in 2020. Gauff recently won the ASB Classic, her third WTA title, and she has never shown signs of nerves on the big stage.
The 18-year-old has reached the final of the French Open and quarter-finals of the US Open in the last 12 months, so odds of 16/1 could be generous this month.
Article originally published 8th January.
Odds correct at time of publishing.