MELBOURNE -- Juan Martin del Potro's 2015 comeback took a setback on Sunday when withdrew from the Australian Open with lingering pain in his left wrist. Japan's Hiroki Moriya, ranked No. 143, will replace Del Potro in the main draw.
Del Potro cut short his scheduled practice session on Sunday in Melbourne and immediately announced his withdrawal. "I didn't feel prepared for playing in this big event," del Potro told reporters. "My first Grand Slam after one year, five-set matches, is very tough. It could be dangerous for my wrist and also for my [body]. I think it was a tough decision, but could be a smart decision if I want to stay healthy and play for the whole year." He hopes to return during the U.S. hard court events in Indian Wells and Miami in March.
Del Potro emphasized he was being cautious. Now 26, his goal is simply to work with his doctors to get him in position to play pain-free tennis. "I think in the future I will be playing free, without pain," he said. "It could be my big challenge for the moment, but if I feel no pain in the future, I will be very, very happy to get into the court again and play tennis for more years than what I am expecting now."
The Argentine has been plagued with wrist injuries ever since he won the 2009 U.S. Open. After undergoing surgery on his right wrist in 2010, he finally looked healthy in 2013 and finished the season at No. 5. Despite rising to No. 4 last January, the Argentine had to halt his season, this time to heal an injured left wrist.
Del Potro played his first tournament in 11 months last week at the Sydney International, where he secured a Top 20 win over Fabio Fognini before losing to Mikhail Kukushkin in the quarterfinals. He admitted the pain in his wrist increased with every match, which altered his strategy in Sydney. Instead of hitting through his backhand, he opted for more slices instead.
"I want to play tennis," del Potro said. "It doesn't matter how. But after seeing my level in Sydney, I think if I'm in good shape and I'm healthy, without pain, I could be competitive again very soon."