After the five-time champion Roger Federer, Kevin Anderson and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, former world no. 4 Kei Nishikori was the latest player who had to withdraw from the upcoming first Masters 1000 event of the season in Indian Wells.
Just a day after turning 30, the Japanese had to skip the inaugural ATP Cup due to an ongoing right elbow injury, finishing the previous season outside the top-10 for the second time in three years and struggling with injuries that forced him to miss all the action after the US Open.
The Japanese has been sidelined since September, undergoing surgery on October 22 and making progress in the following months, although he is still not ready to play again, skipping the Davis Cup tie against Ecuador this week.
Kei had stayed in the top-10 until the end of October, kicking off the 2019 season with the title in Brisbane before retiring in the quarter-final at the Australian Open against Novak Djokovic. He was the semi-finalist in Rotterdam in what was his final notable result before April and Barcelona where Daniil Medvedev toppled him in the battle for the title match in a tight deciding set.
The Japanese advanced into the quarter-final in Rome, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, gaining a few ranking positions but losing them quickly after competing at only five matches following the All England Club, failing to score a win in Montreal and Cincinnati and heading to New York with low confidence.
There, Kei ousted Marco Trungelliti and Bradley Klahn before losing to Alex de Minaur in four sets in what turned out to be his last match so far. Nishikori is hoping to make a return in Miami or during the clay season, not risking anything and waiting to get back at 100% after such a long break.
"Everything is going well but I couldn't make it in time. I'm sure I will come back soon, hopefully in Miami this month or for the clay-court season, although it wasn't possible this week," said Nishikori.
"My elbow is fine but my body is not ready yet, and I want to build it up; I've rested a long time and I'm coming back from zero. It's sad, seeing the Australian Open and now skipping the Davis Cup, and other big tournaments are coming.
It'll be weird without fans here; I'm sure the players will feel something different. When you have many people watching, you automatically focus, so the team will have to support each other more than usual."