Juan Martin del Potro in but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga out of Australian Open

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulls out of the Australian Open but Juan Martin del Potro is set to compete after a wrist injury

With the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, set to begin in just 12 days’ time, the tournament received both good and bad news today.

First the good: Juan Martin del Potro will makes his return to competitive tennis in Australia almost a year after pulling out of the tour to undergo surgery to his left wrist.

But next, the bad: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former finalist at the Australian Open and one of the showmen in tennis, has withdrawn to continue treatment on an arm injury.

After a cracking year in 2013, Del Potro started 2014 with a bang Down Under by winning the Sydney title, but there were soon to be eerie echoes of the aftermath of his breakthrough 2009 season.

The popular Argentine, ranked in the top five for the first time since undergoing right wrist surgery in 2010, lost a tough five-set second-round contest in Melbourne and would play only four more matches, in Rotterdam and Dubai, before being forced to retire with a left wrist injury.

After a couple of false dawns—he first planned a return in the Asian swing and then for the indoor season—he announced to fans on Facebook last autumn: “Despite good progress through training and physiotherapy, I have decided not to play in the season-ending tournaments in Europe. I’m going to use the time to get ready to make a difference next season. I’m not 100 percent ready yet and need to be patient.”

And it was back on Facebook today that he announced: “Hello to all!!! I wanted to tell you that we decided to travel to play Sydney again and the Open in Australia. I missed a lot of the tour, I missed competing, I missed the contact with you…

“I do not expect great results, only to return to feel the sensation of competition, the feeling of being, once again, an active tennis player, after almost a year away. At the moment, I do not mind the ranking [he is 135]. That has the opposite effect: I will use it as an incentive to make more effort to come back. After my experience of injury before, I am not anxious: I follow the steps advised by my doctor Richard Berger. We must have patience.

“As I wrote in my last message, thank you for the support on the road back. You know that without your encouragement, together with my will, the support of my team, my family and friends, this would not be possible. See you in Australia!”

Now age 26, Del Potro broke into the elite ranks just a few days short of his 21st birthday first by beating Rafael Nadal in the semis and then ending Roger Federer’s five-year reign at the US Open to claim his first—and thus far only—Grand Slam title. He has twice reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open though his best result in the Majors since 2009 was his semi run at Wimbledon in 2013.

His performance in Sydney, after so long out of competition, will be keenly watched, as will his place in the draw come Melbourne, where the top seeds could meet him rather too early for comfort. It will also be interesting to see where how he fits back into a rather different hierarchy: Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic—though himself an injury doubtful in Australia—have all made strides since Del Potro was last in competition.

Tsonga took to Twitter via his own website to announce his withdrawal from Melbourne, illustrating his post with photos of a braced arm and wrist: “It’s with big disappointment that I have to postpone today the start of my season [by] declining [to play in] the Australian Open. I’m still suffering from a forearm inflammation and that prevents me being at 100 percent of my capacity in a competition. I’m going to receive over three weeks all the treatment needed to be able to be back on track in the best condition.”

The 29-year-old Frenchman had already withdrawn from the Hopman Cup, and last December in the Davis Cup final, having lost his opening singles match, he was unable to take further part due to injury. Even so, he went on to play in the IPTL later that month.

This latest setback follows a comeback in 2014 from an injury-blighted 2013, when he retired at Wimbledon and missed the North American season with knee injury. His victory in this year Toronto was his first title in 18 months, but aside from a fourth-round run at the US Open, he managed just three more match-wins before the season’s end.

Tsonga was a finalist in Australia in 2008, still his best Grand Slam result, reached the semis of Wimbledon twice and at Roland Garros once. He first reached No6 in the rankings in 2008, spent most of 2009 and 2010 in the top 10, and peaked at No5 in 2012. He is currently ranked 12.

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