Monday 23 September 2019

Novak Djokovic confirms controversial exhibition match against Rafael Nadal has been cancelled

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after winning his men's Singles finals match against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina on Day Fourteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 9, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after winning his men's Singles finals match against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina on Day Fourteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 9, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal's controversial exhibition match in Saudi Arabia next month has been called off after the Spaniard underwent ankle surgery.

Both players were heavily criticised for agreeing to the lucrative contest in light of Saudi Arabia's human rights record, with the exhibition announced less than a week after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Talking about the event at last week's Paris Masters, both men said they committed to it a year ago and needed more information before taking a final decision about whether to compete.

But Nadal's ankle surgery earlier this week, which he had to remove a floating body in the joint after an abdominal injury ruled him out of the ATP Finals, means a politically-sensitive decision has been taken out of their hands.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the tournament at London's O2 Arena, Djokovic told reporters: "It's not happening."

Asked if that was because of Nadal's injury, Djokovic replied simply: "Yes."

Nadal confirmed his season had ended early after he underwent ankle surgery that rules him out of the end of season World Tour Finals in London next week.

"It was a complicated year, very good at the tennis level when I was able to play and at the same time very bad as far as injuries are concerned," Nadal said in a statement earlier this week.

"I have done everything possible to reach the end of the season in good condition, both in Paris and London, doing things well and I really wanted to play.

"Unfortunately, I had the abdominal problem in Paris last week and, in addition, I have a free body in the ankle joint that has to be removed in the operating room today.

"It is true that we had detected it for a long time and from time to time it bothered me.

"However, since the problem in the abdominal muscle also prevents me from playing in London, we take advantage of the moment to remove the free body and avoid future problems.

"I have done everything possible to reach the end of the season in good condition, both in Paris and London, doing things well and I really wanted to play.

"Unfortunately, I had the abdominal problem in Paris last week and, in addition, I have a free body in the ankle joint that has to be removed in the operating room.

"It is true that we had detected it for a long time and from time to time it bothered me.

"However, since the problem in the abdominal muscle also prevents me from playing in London, we take advantage of the moment to remove the free body and avoid future problems."

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