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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Novak Djokovic pulls out of Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Serb's medical team advise he needs more time to recover from elbow injury; Andy Murray to play one-set exhibition against Bautista Agut instead

Novak Djokovic, seen here with the Mubadala World Tennis Championship trophy after winning the tournament in Abu Dhabi on December 28, 2013. Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
Novak Djokovic, seen here with the Mubadala World Tennis Championship trophy after winning the tournament in Abu Dhabi on December 28, 2013. Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on the advice of his medical team.

The 12-time major winner was due to play Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-final on Friday but an announcement saying the Serb would no longer take part because of a long-term elbow injury was made four hours before he was due on court.

Bautista Agut, the Spaniard who on Thursday beat Russia's Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals, will now play a one-set exhibition against former world No 1 Andy Murray, who is in Abu Dhabi training, from 7pm at the International Tennis Stadium at Zayed Sports City instead of the scheduled match with Djokovic.

Organisers confirmed Baustista Agut would be given a walkover to Saturday's final, where he will play the winner of the semi-final between Kevin Anderson and Dominic Thiem. That match starts Friday at 5pm.

Djokovic has not played since July as he recovers from an elbow injury.

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The world No 12 said in a statement: “I am terribly disappointed that I am forced to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

"I love the tournament and was really looking forward to competing in Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately, my medical team has advised me that my elbow needs more time to recover.”

John Lickrish, chief executive at Flash Entertainment, added: “Unfortunately injuries are a common occurrence in professional sports and the player’s well-being 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.”

Murray has not played since Wimbledon either due to a hip injury and spent almost 90 minutes on the practice court on Thursday as he looks to step up his recovery ahead of the Australian Open next month.