More pain for Djokovic as he withdraws from Abu Dhabi with elbow injury flaring up again
The former world No 1 from Serbia is advised to get treatment on his troubled elbow as he withdraws just hours before his first match against Agut
The comeback of former world number one and 12-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic was in jeopardy last night after he withdrew from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi after suffering more elbow pain.
The 30-year-old Serbian star had targeted the Mubadala World Tennis Championship for his first match since his quarter-final loss at Wimbledon in July, but the fresh injury woes cast doubt on his preparation for the Australian Open, which starts in just over two weeks.
Djokovic had been scheduled to play Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-finals of the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament on Friday.
But four hours before the scheduled encounter, Djokovic released a statement on his website announcing his intention.
It is not clear if he will play in next week’s Qatar Open, where he is top seed. The Qata tournament was earmarked as Djokovic’s lead-in tournament to the Australian Open.
“I am terribly disappointed that I am forced to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship,” Djokovic said in the statement.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
The Abu Dhabi organisers scrambled to put together a match between another former world No 1, Britain’s Andy Murray, and Bautista-Agut as a replacement match.
Murray, also on the comeback trail, has not played a match since his loss at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey. He has been recovering from a hip injury and had been in Abu Dhabi practising with his coaching team.
The second semi-final of the tournament is between world No 5 Dominic Thiem of Austria and world No 14 Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
On Saturday, prior to the men’s final, former women’s No 1 and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams will make her return to court with an exhibition match against the reigning French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko.
Williams has not played since winning the Australian Open because of pregnancy and the birth of her first child in September.