THE Sydney International is in the grip of a Frenchmen's curse, with a third top player from France pulling out of the tournament through injury.
Second seed Gilles Simon, who was champion in Sydney in 2011, hurt his neck playing doubles last night. The world No.16 says his neck complaint has been an ongoing problem for several years now and flares up every two months or so.
While he was making his announcement, over on the outside courts sixth seed Radek Stepanek had to stop after just four points in his second round match with last year's Sydney runner-up Julien Benneteau with a strained upper back muscle.
So that's four men's seeds that have been bundled out by injury and not by a match result. At least Stepanek had played the first round here. He was forced to withdraw from Brisbane with an eye infection before hitting a ball in anger.
Simon had been given a bye as one of the top four seeds and was due to make his first appearance at Sydney Olympic Park today.
"It is more with the bones and the nerves,"
said Simon of his neck injury. "I am trying to find some solutions because it happens too many times. Unfortunately it is not easy as the shape of my back is not as it should be. I feel better today but not good enough to go on the court and play."
Simon's withdrawal follows fellow Frenchmen and the events two top seeds Jo Wilfried Tsonga (hamstring) and Richard Gasquet (personal issues) pulling out last Saturday on the eve of competition.
Simon was due to meet the 2012 winner Jarkko Nieminen (Finland) today for a spot in the quarter-finals.
The Frenchman suffered the same problem in Sydney 12 months ago and had to withdraw when he was defending champion.
"Most of the time I don't play two weeks before the (four) slams but this time I wanted to play some matches to get used to that attitude on the court you need before the slam," he said, referring to the Australian Open coming so quickly after the players' off-season break.
"But I don't want to go out there and lose 6-2 6-2 and only be able to play at 50 per cent."
Simon says he should be able to rehabilitate his neck in time for his opening matches in Melbourne next week.
"Yes I have time, if I don't have any more complication. It will be difficult for three or four days but will be alright by Monday," he said.
"But of course it's not the best preparation for Melbourne because you cannot practise as you want to and I have to play five-sets down there to be ready.
"This is my job now to make it as good as possible until the first match there."
As Simon had not played a game yet in the Sydney event, lucky loser Ivo Klec (Slovakia) has been plucked from qualifying and will now play Nieminen.