Frenchman Tsonga not fit enough for Australian Open

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Australian Open – First Round – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 21, 2020. France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga leaves the court after retiring from his match against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin. REUTERS/Issei Kato

(Reuters) – Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has joined Roger Federer in withdrawing from the 2021 Australian Open after failing to recover fully from a lower back injury.

The 35-year-old has not played since retiring from his first-round match at Melbourne Park in January when trailing Alexei Popyrin 6-7(5) 6-2 6-1.

“Despite great progress in recent months, I am still not able to play in competition,” Tsonga, a 2008 finalist in Melbourne, wrote in a social media post.

“In agreement with the medical team, the Australian Open is therefore compromised this year.

“I am looking forward to getting back on a tennis court, but I have to be patient … Even if not going to Australia this year is a heartbreaker.”

The first Grand Slam of 2021 has been delayed by three weeks due to Australia’s strict border rules to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. It will start on Feb. 8.

Six-times champion Federer pulled out earlier this week as he continues to work his way back to fitness from two knee operations earlier this year.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford