The 2017 #Australian Open will be starting in just a couple of week's time. The men's side features Andy Murray as the favorite while the women's side features Serena Williams (source: bet365). As favorites, they are both expected not just to be in the event but to be in the deep rounds. However, the 2017 Australian Open will have several notable absences from the onset.

Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka not playing

Firstly, the past champions (that aren't retired) that won't be at the event are #Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka. Sharapova won the event in 2008, however she remains sidelined with a suspension at this point following her positive test for a banned substance at the Australian Open last year.

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Azarenka won the Aussie in 2012 and 2013. However, she gave birth to her first child just over a week ago and her return date is not clear yet. However, she won't be at Melbourne Park with perhaps the 2017 French Open the stage for her next match.

Sticking with the women's side, Madison Keys won't be in the tournament. The American and former semifinalist announced last week that she had surgery shortly after the conclusion of the 2016 season. Her recovery will not be timely enough for her to return to competitive tennis. Furthermore, last week we learned that Petra Kvitova will not be able to compete at Melbourne Park. The Czech player was attacked in her apartment last week and the injuries suffered to her hand will keep her off tour for at least six months. Lastly, it could be mentioned that Ana Ivanovic will not be in the draw -- nor in any other draw in the future as she announced her retirement.

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Del Potro the only big name out in men's

On the men's side, #Juan Martin del Potro is the biggest withdrawal so far. The Argentine hinted at missing the tournament recently and his betting odds for the event have in fact disappeared: "Tennis waited for me for two years, and it can wait one more Australian Open for me,” he said (del Potro qtd. at MovieTVTechGeeks/Dec. 27, 2016).

There are bound to be more withdrawals in the weeks ahead as tournaments are to be played at numerous venues around the South Pacific and elsewhere. Players are bound to pick up minor injuries as a result and, if anything, tennis fans should expect the list of player withdrawals to grow. On the women's side, the tournament can nil afford to lose many more top stars without perhaps losing some popularity. Surely Sharapova and Azarenka are major stars whose absence will be felt at Melbourne Park. Keys and Kvitova are major stars in their own right as well. The men's side is still loaded, but I'll watch for updates in the weeks ahead as Brisbane, Chennai, and other events play out on tour.