Karolina Pliskova has become the highest-ranked player to withdraw from the Australian Open.

The world number four posted a picture of herself on social media with her right forearm in a plaster cast after injuring her hand in practice.

Pliskova wrote: "Some days are worse than others. Unfortunately I will be out for a while and will not compete at my favourite tournaments in Australia. But time and believe (sic) can heal everything."

The 29-year-old Czech was resurgent in 2021, reaching her second grand slam final at Wimbledon, where she was defeated in a tight contest by Ashleigh Barty.

The injury ends Pliskova's streak of competing in 35 consecutive grand slam tournaments, with this the first one she will miss since the 2012 US Open, where she failed to qualify.

She joins Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu as high-profile absentees from the first grand slam of the new season, which begins on 17 January.

Rafel Nadal missed most of the secpnd half of 2021 action due to injury

Meanwhile, 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal will head to the Australian Open with low expectations after his latest injury lay-off but still believes he can challenge for the biggest prizes in the sport.

The Spaniard will be back on court on Friday at the exhibition Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi when he takes on Andy Murray.

It will be the first time Nadal has been seen in a match since a defeat to Lloyd Harris in Washington in early August, which was his first tournament since withdrawing from Wimbledon and the Olympics.

The 35-year-old has been battling a left foot problem and accepts he has a long road in front of him if he is to return to top form.

Speaking at a press conference in Abu Dhabi, Nadal said: "I am super happy to be back. It's not about pain. I had pain a lot of times during my career, almost all the time, it’s more about having the chance to have a pain that I can manage to compete well.

"Let’s see. I need to try it in competition. Of course, I am feeling better, if not I will not be here. I know the comeback will be not easy. I don’t have big expectations now.

"My only expectation is to be here, to play in front of a great crowd again, to feel myself competing again against great players, and then enjoy. It has been a very tough period of time for me, honestly, so just to be here is great news for me.

"I really hope the foot is going to get better and better to be again at the level that I want to be. If I am able to play with no limitations, I want to fight again for everything, so that’s the goal.

"My experience says that things change very quick. What today seems impossible or almost impossible, nobody knows what can happen in one month.

"It’s going to be super difficult for me. If things are going well, I’m only going to play one tournament before Australia and these two matches here so the amount of hours on court at the competitive level before such a tough and demanding tournament like Australia will be not much but the main thing is still always the same – be healthy. If I am healthy, I still have the interior fire to keep going and to fight for my goals."

In Nadal’s absence, Djokovic drew level with the Spaniard and Roger Federer at the peak of men’s tennis with his 20th grand slam title at Wimbledon before narrowly missing out on a 21st in New York.

Providing the world number one plays in Melbourne, he will go into the Australian Open as favourite to win a 10th title and put himself decisively out in front in the battle for supremacy in this record-breaking era of men’s tennis.

"I am outside of the competition for the last five, six months," said Nadal. "I understand that the conversation is always there, especially with Novak that he has been playing every week almost.

"Me and Roger have been injured for such a long period of time. Of course we are equal but the chances for Novak are much higher than for us."

Murray showed positive signs ahead of the new season with a comprehensive 6-3 6-2 win over British rival Dan Evans in Abu Dhabi today.

Evans was a late replacement and that perhaps explains why he was some way below his best, with the 31-year-old midway through his preparations for the start of the new season next month.

But it was certainly an encouraging display from Murray, who split from long-time coach Jamie Delgado last week and is having a trial period with German Jan De Witt.

The Scot will now provide the first opponent for Rafael Nadal when he makes his comeback from a lengthy lay-off with a foot injury on Friday.

"I didn’t know whether I was going to get the opportunity to play matches like that again," said Murray. "Rafa’s someone that I’ve had some great battles with at some of the biggest tournaments in the world. It’ll be great. Hopefully we can put on a great performance."