Djokovic, who was due to make his long-awaited return from the sidelines and take to the court in Abu Dhabi for the first time since Wimbledon last July, has now delayed his comeback ahead of next month’s Australian Open.
I am terribly disappointed that I am forced to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Classic. Thank you all for your support 🙏 https://t.co/2ZhtrADXzl
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) December 29, 2017
Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship due to pain in his elbow, the Serb said on his website on Friday.
Djokovic, who has been sidelined with an elbow injury since Wimbledon last July, had told Sport360 earlier this week that he was looking forward to commencing the new season “pain-free” but the ex-world No. 1 has delayed his start to 2018 by withdrawing from the Abu Dhabi event.
Andy Murray, who is in Abu Dhabi training on the MWTC courts has agreed to play an exhibition against Roberto Bautista Agut at 19:00 on Friday.
“I am terribly disappointed that I am forced to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. Unfortunately, in the past few days I started to feel pain in the elbow and after several tests, my medical team has advised me not to risk anything, to withdraw from the tournament and to immediately continue with the therapies,” Djokovic said in a statement on his official website.
“I am very sad because I was eager to return to playing official matches. I enjoyed the practices and everything I did to get ready for the start of the season, including the tournament in Abu Dhabi, where I always enjoy playing. Now I need to accept this situation, and to wait for the results of the therapies, in order to start playing tennis again and getting back to full rhythm. This might affect the start of the season and the tournament plan, but the decision will be made in the following days.”
Djokovic is scheduled to play the Qatar Open next week, but it’s possible he withdraws. Rafael Nadal also delayed his start to 2018, pulling out of Brisbane to recover from a knee injury, while it’s still unclear how fit Murray is to start his season Down Under, after missing the past six months with a hip problem.
John Lickrish, CEO of MWTC owners FLASH Entertainment said: “Unfortunately injuries are a common occurrence in professional sports and the player’s wellbeing must always be a priority. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on the court soon.
“Fans can still look forward to some great tennis action as Andy Murray, winner of two gold medals and three Grand Slam titles, takes on Bautista Agut tonight.”
Bautista Agut automatically moves into the final where he faces Kevin Anderson, who defeated Dominic Thiem on Friday.
Novak Djokovic’s first match back following his six-month injury hiatus will be against familiar foe Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated Andrey Rublev in straight sets at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Djokovic has not played since Wimbledon, due to an elbow injury, but told Sport360 that he is pain-free and ready to get back to the match court.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion has had difficult clashes with Bautista Agut in the past, including two four-setters at the 2015 US Open and 2016 French Open – both of which Djokovic won.
The Spaniard trails Djokovic 1-6 head-to-head but beat the ex-world No. 1 last year in Shanghai.
“It’s going to be great to have Novak on court again, for everybody, for all of us. I’m happy to play against him again. I played some tough matches against him and I always enjoy playing against Novak,” said Bautista Agut.
On Thursday in the UAE capital, the 20th-ranked Bautista Agut defeated Rublev 7-5, 6-2 to advance to Friday’s semi-finals.
“I played great. I think it was a good first match of the season. I felt great on the court, the surface feels great for my game. It was a good start for me,” said the Spaniard, who had a solid day on the fast surface in Abu Dhabi.
Earlier on centre court, Kevin Anderson defeated Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 7-6 (2) in a rematch of their US Open semi-final from last September.
Anderson takes on world No. 5 Dominic Thiem, who has been in fierce form on the practice courts at Zayed Sports City over the past two days.
The 14th-ranked Anderson enjoys a dominant 6-0 head-to-head record against Thiem, who admitted he “completely” lost his confidence at the end of 2017 but believes he has restored his self-belief ahead of the new season.
“It’s just one of those things. Quite a few times I’ve obviously had good success with him in the past. But they were very close matches,” Anderson said of his strong record against the Austrian.
“Saved match points in one of them. In Washington this year he was up a break twice in the third set and managed to fight my way through there. The record would show that I haven’t lost to him but one or two points it could have been not quite as one-sided as it is. He’s one of the best players in the world, he’s proved himself with that. He had a great year this year, especially in the clay-court season.
“He’s a great competitor, he’s a free swinger, and when he times the ball well, he hits the ball just as hard as anybody, especially on these courts, they are very quick, so that would be great for him. It’s going to be an exciting match, I’m looking forward to it.”
14:30 Fifth-place play-off Pablo Carreno Busta v Andrey Rublev
17:00 Semi-final 1 Dominic Thiem v Kevin Anderson
19:00 Semi-final 2 Novak Djokovic v Roberto Bautista Agut