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Players have complained in the past that the Australian Open is too early in the season, with most having limited tournament play after the offseason. The heat in the Australian summer is another issue and the predominance of hardcourt tournaments is often cited as contributing to injuries.

“Oh, it’s definitely more demanding,” Clijsters said of the hard courts, but “I think every surface has their advantages and disadvantages.

“It’s just _ our sport has evolved into such a strong sport where physically _ I mean, it’s so much more demanding on the body and how we play.”

Clijsters said players were spending more time in the gym to build strength to cope with the increasing demands on their bodies and many traveled with a physical therapist.

“When I came on tour … nobody was hardly ever in the gym besides warming up with a skipping rope or doing some shoulder exercises and now there’s everybody _ because it’s necessary,” she said. “The tennis that I play is physically so demanding on the body and then … combine that on a hard court.”

Murray dropped the opening sets of his first two matches at the Brisbane International as he overcame soreness and stiffness from the offseason. But a sleek-moving Murray appeared to back up his “I’ll be OK” comment by beating young Australian hope Bernard Tomic in straight sets in the semifinals Saturday, less than 24 hours after he breezed through a quarterfinal against 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.

Nadal, who has struggled with a sore left shoulder, was beaten in straight sets by Gael Monfils in the Qatar Open semifinals on Friday. But he did not blame any injury problems for the loss.

There have been several other injury pullouts. Sixth-seeded Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Russia withdrew from Qatar with a right ankle injury. At Brisbane, Florian Mayer retired with a groin injury and Tommy Haas with a calf muscle injury.

Maria Sharapova withdrew before the Brisbane tournament with an injured ankle but has already arrived in Melbourne to begin training.

Venus Williams announced in mid-December that she was pulling out of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, which was supposed to be her first competitive match since August. The 31-year-old Williams is still recovering from the immune system disease Sjogren’s syndrome, which can cause fatigue and joint pain.

There has been no word on Venus’ status for the Australian Open. Her sister’s fitness for Melbourne likely will be in doubt until just before the tournament starts.

“I’m going to take a couple of days off _ not too many _ and see how I feel,” Williams said after her withdrawal at Brisbane. “I’m still hopeful of playing the Australian Open.”