Chris Kermode, executive chairman of the men's tour, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), promised a shake-up, although he accepted the players' reasons for withdrawing. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are top seeds in the men's singles bracket, while Novak Djokovic, seeded No. 14, is uncharacteristically an underdog.
Their replacement - a 'lucky loser' from the qualifying tournament - will get the other 50 percent of the first-round prize money.
Djokovic had a contrasting 2017, starting at No. 2 but losing in a second-round upset at the Australian Open and not playing again after Wimbledon.
Grigor Dimitrov is intent on seizing the moment and ushering in a new era of men's tennis as he heads the queue of unfulfilled talents chasing Australian Open glory at Melbourne Park. To succeed at the majors, endurance and stamina have become an increasingly necessary ingredient as baseline play has come to dominate the game. It's just an amazing bunch of guys that really inspired a lot of the tennis players that still play today. This also points to the absolute tenacity and mental muscle that is needed to survive on the tour. His opponents in finals were on average ranked 5.75.
Keothavong has this week overlooked Robson for her four-woman squad for next month's week of Euro Africa Zone promotion matches, preferring the higher ranked Katie Boulter and doubles specialist Anna Smith to support Jo Konta and Heather Watson, who has had a decent week in Hobart.
In the women's field, there is a slew of young stars eager to snatch the baton. She could face a daunting test in the third round from either Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champion, or Maria Sharapova, the 2008 winner. He triggered improvements in others too.
Twelve months on from his unforgettable surge to a fifth Open crown aged 35 and in his first official tournament back after six months out of the game, Federer admits he can still barely believe what he pulled off.
And when Djokovic made grass - a surface which Andre Agassi called "ice slathered with Vaseline" - feel like clay, leaving not a single blade uncovered, Federer was left with no choice but to shore up his defence. But so did Federer.
Karolina Pliskova is attracting some interest with the bookies (Picture: Getty Images)Where can you live stream the Australian Open? Additional watch-ability, for one.
The BBC will be showing highlights on some days throughout the competition, with a schedule of their coverage here. "I don't like usually going to draws because they freak me out".
If Djokovic should be expected to get through the early rounds, the challenge then steps up significantly in the fourth round where world No 4 Alexander Zverev awaits, if the draw goes according to seeding. I played the qualies here in '99, the juniors in '98. It was the first year since 2009 that Djokovic didn't reach at least one Grand Slam final. History shows that a top player has to be among the top, say among the top 25 for a period of time, to move into the top five.
"Of course well deserved for him". He delayed his return until two exhibition appearances this week.