Novak Djokovic’s long awaited return to the courts will have to wait a few more weeks.
Scheduled to play at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships, in Abu Dhabi, the Serbian pulled out on Friday, a few hours before his début opposite Roberto Bautista Agut. His elbow was causing him pain again, and on the recommendation of his medical team, withdrawing from the exhibition tournament was the thing to do.
Then, on Saturday, more bad news came from the former number one, as he announced his withdrawal from the first official tournament of his comeback, in Doha:
It is a difficult setback for Djokovic, who was enthusiastic at the prospect of finally returning to the courts.
Djokovic, Nadal, Nishikori: already a big list of withdrawals
The new season has not officially started that we are, already, seeing a big list of names withdrawing from the various pre-Australian Open events.
Only in the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament, prior to its start, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, and Rafael Nadal had also withdrawn. The Canadian had only decided to arrive earlier in Australia, where he will take part in the ATP250 of Brisbane, which starts this Sunday.
As for the Swiss, his goal remains to be ready for the first Grand Slam of the season. However, he did not consider himself ready enough to play for the moment. Wawrinka had undergone a double knee surgery following Wimbledon.
Nadal, who suffered a knee injury close to the end of last season, is still not over it and has, consequently, pulled out of Brisbane.
For his part, Kei Nishikori has pulled out of both Australian Open warm-up events in which he was entered, in Brisbane and Sydney. In his case, he is still recovering from a wrist injury sustained just before Cincinnati.
Will we see those players in Melbourne? The question remains whole.
Murray nearing a comeback
If the news are not positive for several of the injured players, they are better as far as Andy Murray’s comeback is concerned.
On Saturday, the Scot played an exhibition set against Bautista Agut, thus filling in for Djokovic. Despite losing the set 6-2, Murray has shown encouraging signs. If he was, indeed, visibly rusty (hardly surprising after six months without match play), limping a little, and careful in some of his movements, his game seemed ready. However, as he admitted himself, he still needs to improve.
His progress appeared reassuring enough for him to hop on the first flight to Brisbane, where he is scheduled to face Leonardo Mayer or Ryan Harrison in the second round (he has a “bye” in the first round). Whether Murray plays or not remains to be seen.