Mubadala World Tennis Championship stars Kevin Anderson and Dominic Thiem have reacted to the news that forced 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic to withdraw from the season-opener in Abu Dhabi, before even taking to court.
The Serbian great, who last played at Wimbledon back in July, was forced to make the call on his fitness over his troublesome elbow injury, which meant he was unable to take to the court on Friday and face Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-finals of the event.
And with Doha and the Australian Open on the horizon for the former World No.1, this latest setback has cast doubts over his long-term fitness.
Speaking after his straight-sets victory over Dominic Thiem to reach Saturday's final in the UAE capital, South African Anderson said: “If you're not really feeling healthy, as tough as it is, it's probably better not to play. Obviously, especially someone like Novak - with his expectations and what he's achieved in the sport.
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.