Djokovic forced to pull out of blockbuster World Tennis League clash with Kyrgios in Dubai

Serb not well enough to play and is replaced by Falcons teammate Dimitrov

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Novak Djokovic pulled out ahead of his match against Nick Kyrgios at the World Tennis League in Dubai on Wednesday, explaining he was “not feeling 100 per cent well enough to play”.

The blockbuster match-up between Djokovic and Kyrgios – a rematch of their Wimbledon 2022 final – was advertised as the main attraction for Day 3 of the WTL, which saw the biggest crowds for the event so far at Coca Cola Arena.

“Novak Djokovic announced that he would not be partaking in the World Tennis League event tonight due to not feeling 100 per cent well enough to play,” read a statement released by the WTL.

“Team Falcons will continue to play against Team Eagles and we look forward to Novak’s return to centre court.”

Djokovic was replaced by his Falcons teammate Grigor Dimitrov, who posted a 7-6, 6-3 victory over Kyrgios. But the Eagles still pulled off a 38-31 success over the Falcons.

“I was pretty excited to play Novak obviously, since Wimbledon final and all that, wanted to go out there and have some fun with him,” said Eagles star Kyrgios.

“But he’s got to look after his body and obviously he’s a got a big couple of months coming up with a lot of expectations, so I wasn’t surprised if he wasn’t feeling 100 per cent to get out there.

“But Grigor is a good mate of mine, it was good to get out there and get some load under the body again. Every day just feeling a little bit better physically. Just getting those two tough singles matches under my belt, feeling well, getting through those without anything kind of pulling up, so that’s a bonus.”

The day kicked off with mixed doubles, which was a lively affair with Djokovic dancing during changeovers, and all players getting involved with line calls and reacting to hot shots throughout.

It was the experience of Indian veteran Rohan Bopanna and the quick reflexes and soft hands of Bianca Andreescu that prevailed, giving the Eagles an early lead on the Falcons.

Bopanna and Andreescu lost 2-6, 7-6, 10-7 to Aryna Sabalenka and Dimitrov but because the number of games won is what matters the most in this format, the Eagles duo ended up giving their team a 13-10 advantage.

“It’s definitely bringing a different vibe to the sport, which I like. It’s my first time playing an exhibition match like this, and it’s nice to have the mixture of the men and the women,” former US Open champion Andreescu told The National.

“Playing doubles with Nick and with Rohan is amazing. He’s a Grand Slam champion, and Nick as well, so it’s nice because I can get some ideas off of them. And who knows, maybe I can play with them in mixed doubles in the future.”

Reigning WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia extended the Eagles advantage on the Falcons as the world No 4 defeated Spain’s Paula Badosa 6-4, 6-3.

Garcia served impeccably against the world No 13, perhaps channelling her inner Kyrgios. Serving bombs is probably the only thing she has in common though with her Australian teammate.

“It was a great atmosphere, I really enjoyed that match. It’s some great experience for us and I’m really happy to have some teammates, which is rare in our sport,” said the Frenchwoman.

“I think it’s good vibes on our team. We are all very different, I think Nick and I are pretty much the opposite when it comes to what we can do in our style outside the court. It’s a good team.”

Updated: December 21, 2022, 7:32 PM